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Reflections: The Magic, Music and Mathematics of Raymond Smullyan

Raymond Smullyan
World Scientific
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Joel Haack
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Reading Raymond Smullyan’s Reflections: The Magic, Music and Mathematics of Raymond Smullyan is like sitting with a 95-year-old friend and listening to his stories, jokes, poems, and reminiscences. Of course, this is the point of the book. There are few dry biographical details. Rather we read of Smullyan’s recollections of incidents in his past that support the image of a man who enjoys (stress “enjoys”) logic, music, mathematics, puns and flirting with women.

To give a sense of the make-up of this book, I counted the pages that I would categorize as memoirs, logic and mathematics, jokes and stories, puns, poetry, music, magic, religion and philosophy, and flirting. Anyone familiar with Smullyan’s lengthy list of logic books is acquainted with the fact that puzzles and anecdotes may in fact be teaching important lessons in logic, so that it is hopeless to try to distinguish precisely between items in these various categories. That is, a humorous anecdote may in fact be part memoir, part logic, and part flirting. Nevertheless, I think the categorization here will give a flavor of the 216-page book: memoirs, 73 pages; logic and mathematics, 48 pages; jokes and stories, 30 pages, puns, 23 pages; poetry, 10 pages; music, 9 pages; magic, 5 pages; religion and philosophy, 5 pages; and flirting, 9 pages.

Smullyan has more than 30 books in print in English at this time. If you have enjoyed any of them and wish to know more about the author, I suspect you will enjoy this breezy set of reflections as well.

Joel Haack is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Northern Iowa.

  • Early Childhood
  • Later Childhood
  • High School
  • Beginning College
  • University of Chicago, Music, Magic
  • Dartmouth, Princeton
  • After Graduation
  • Diagonalization, Love, Logic, a Letter
  • The Piano Society
  • Lovely Ladies I Have Known