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Saturday, June 15, 2013

John Conway, A Mathematician's Mathematician

I'm not even sure what that phrase means ("a mathematician's mathematician"), but it just sounds right for John Conway!....

John Horton Conway

Over at companion blog MathTango I now have up a review of "The New York Times Book of Mathematics," an anthology of superb past NY Times columns that relate to mathematics. I love the volume, and recommend it. And because it's a compendium of past newspaper columns, many can be found online, so the book is a rich source for future posts/links here as well!
I'll start with this wonderful 1993 profile by Gina Kolata of Princeton's fascinating John Conway (renowned for his math creativity, and inventing the "Game of Life") which comes near the end of the anthology:


A few endearing lines about Dr. Conway from the piece:
 "But Dr. Conway has so many peculiar interests and quirks, and he can so easily be made to sound eccentric, that his deep love of mathematics and the natural world can be lost in the fluff. In a way, he is oblivious to the routines and customs of ordinary life...
"Yet though indifferent to fashion or fads, Dr. Conway is intensely aware of nature, and wants to know it deeply and intimately. He is infinitely curious and observant, seeing nature not only in a spider web or the details of a daffodil but in mathematics."
There are probably some more recent, up-to-date profiles of Conway available, but likely none any more splendidly composed. Give it a read; you'll be glad you did!

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