Martin Gardner dies

Martin GardnerMartin Gardner

The polymathic Martin Gardner died on May 22, 2010, at the age of 95, according to the obituary in The New York Times (May 23, 2010). Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on October 21, 1914, Gardner studied philosophy at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1936. After working as a reporter and in public relations, he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1942 to 1946, and then launched a freelance writing career. In 1957, he began writing his "Mathematical Games" column for Scientific American, which ran until 1981. A prolific writer, he wrote books not only on recreational mathematics but also on science and philosophy, literary topics (including his celebrated The Annotated Alice), and pseudoscience. In 1976, he was one of the founders of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (now the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry).

In a 1998 interview with Skeptical Inquirer's Kendrick Frazier, Gardner said that as a high school student, "I actually doubted the theory of evolution, having been influenced by George McCready Price, a Seventh-day Adventist creationist. A course in geology convinced me that Price was a crackpot. However, his flood theory of fossils is ingenious enough so that one has to know some elementary geology in order to see where it is wrong. Perhaps this aroused my interest in debunking pseudoscience." Gardner's first book In the Name of Science (1952; reissued as Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, 1957) devoted a chapter to "Geology versus Genesis"; and he returned frequently to the topic, with his collection Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? (2001) even taking its title from a classic challenge to creationism.