Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner

Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner


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The autobiography of the beloved writer who inspired a generation to study math and science

Martin Gardner wrote the Mathematical Games column for Scientific American for twenty-five years and published more than seventy books on topics as diverse as magic, religion, and Alice in Wonderland. Gardner's illuminating autobiography is a candid self-portrait by the man evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould called our "single brightest beacon" for the defense of rationality and good science against mysticism and anti-intellectualism.

Gardner takes readers from his childhood in Oklahoma to his varied and wide-ranging professional pursuits. He shares colorful anecdotes about the many fascinating people he met and mentored, and voices strong opinions on the subjects that matter to him most, from his love of mathematics to his uncompromising stance against pseudoscience. For Gardner, our mathematically structured universe is undiluted hocus-pocus—a marvelous enigma, in other words.

Undiluted Hocus-Pocus offers a rare, intimate look at Gardner’s life and work, and the experiences that shaped both.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691169699
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/03/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Martin Gardner (1914–2010) was an acclaimed popular mathematics and science writer. His numerous books include The Annotated Alice, When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish, and Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Magic, Mathematics, and Mysterians, by Persi Diaconis xi

Preface xxiii

Prologue: I Am a Mysterian xxv

1 Earliest Memories 1

2 Lee School 10

3 Tulsa Central High, I 21

4 Central High, II 28

5 Hutchins and Adler 40

6 Richard McKeon 47

7 I Lose My Faith 53

8 Chicago, I 62

9 Chicago, II 76

10 I Become a Journalist 88

11 Mother and Dad 98

12 The Navy, I 111

13 The Navy, II 119

PHOTO ESSAY follows page 124

14 Esquire and Humpty 125

15 Scientific American 134

16 Pseudoscience 150

17 Math and Magic Friends 160

18 Charlotte 173

19 Bob and Betty 185

20 God 191

21 My Philosophy 195

Afterword: My Most Elegant Friend . . . , by James Randi 209

Index 215

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Informative, original, unexpected, and always charmingly written with his uniquely subtle sense of fun, this final autobiographical work of Martin Gardner, Undiluted Hocus-Pocus, sums up his own life and opinions, in the way that has become so familiar and inspirational to us from his well-known writings on puzzles, mathematics, philosophy, and the oddities of the world."—Roger Penrose, author of Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe

"Martin Gardner was the most learned man I have ever met. He wrote articles and books for mathematicians, magicians, and puzzle lovers, and he didn't even get quantum mechanics wrong! Now you can read how this amazing man came to be so amazing."—John Conway, John von Neumann Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Princeton University

"A curious read, reminiscent of Uriah Fuller's attempts to persuade the nonbelievers. I'm left wondering if Gardner's questions have now been answered—which to some readers will always be an intriguing paradox!"—attributed to Armand T. Ringer

"Martin is gone, but his depth and clarity will illuminate our world for a long time."—from the foreword by Persi Diaconis

"A huge intellect, a prolific author, and a caring, responsible citizen of the world."—from the afterword by James Randi

"Undiluted Hocus-Pocus is a book that every fan of Gardner will want to own."—Ron Graham, coauthor of Magical Mathematics

"Martin Gardner occupies a special place in twentieth-century mathematics. More than any other single individual, he inspired a generation of young people to study math. Years from now, people reading his books and marveling at the clarity of his expository style will want to know who he was. How better to satisfy that curiosity than by letting Gardner himself tell the story of his life?"—Barry Cipra, coauthor of What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences

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