Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner [NOOK Book]


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, philosophy, religion, pseudoscience, and Alice in Wonderland. His informal, recreational approach to mathematics delighted countless readers and inspired many to pursue careers in mathematics and the sciences. Gardner's illuminating autobiography is a disarmingly candid self-portrait of the man evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould called our ...

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Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner

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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, philosophy, religion, pseudoscience, and Alice in Wonderland. His informal, recreational approach to mathematics delighted countless readers and inspired many to pursue careers in mathematics and the sciences. Gardner's illuminating autobiography is a disarmingly candid self-portrait of 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 college days at the University of Chicago, his service in the navy, and his varied and wide-ranging professional pursuits. Before becoming a columnist for Scientific American, he was a caseworker in Chicago during the Great Depression, a reporter for the Tulsa Tribune, an editor for Humpty Dumpty, and a short-story writer for Esquire, among other jobs. Gardner 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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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Teller
Gardner writes with such frank pleasure, you find yourself surveying your own life for piquant and vivid memories…Gardner writes with authority and ease. You trust him to take you wherever he feels like going…His radiant self…shines at its sweetest, wittiest and most personal in Undiluted Hocus-Pocus.
Publishers Weekly
Polymath Gardner—writer, amateur magician, religious philosopher, pseudoscience debunker, and mathematical hobbyist—gives readers a conversational look into his diverse life and interests outside the cultural mainstream, from religion, science fiction, and poetry to magic, chess, and learning to play the saw (“If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly”). After leading a “double life” as an amateur magician and philosophy major at the University of Chicago, Gardner was determined to make a living as a writer. Along the way, he held a string of jobs, including a stint in the Navy during WWII, and eventually landed in New York City, where his “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American ran for more than 25 years—leading to friendships with cutting-edge mathematicians and scientists, as well as a vital secondary career debunking “bad science.” Readers who only know Gardner for his math and science writing will be surprised at his focus on religion, and this autobiography demonstrates his passion to explain and understand the world around him. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A case can be made, in purely practical terms, for Martin Gardner as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His popularizations of science and mathematical games in Scientific American, over the 25 years he wrote for them, might have helped create more young mathematicians and computer scientists than any other single factor prior to the advent of the personal computer. . . . Gardner was capable of appealing to the literary side of left-brained sorts, and did so with . . . taste and restraint. . . . Undiluted Hocus-Pocus, his posthumously published autobiography . . . reveals the sort of mentality that shaped itself around his encyclopedic interests."—David Auerbach, Los Angeles Review of Books

"[This book] will be an eye-opener knowing that Martin Gardner was active on so many diverse fields."—
European Mathematical Society

"The book is just a delight to read . . ."—Stephen Hirtle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Here my guru and sage brought together, over the course of two hundred pages, the full range of his interests—math, magic, philosophy, stories, poetry, science, religion, politics—and combined these disparate topics with an account of his private life and intellectual development. I enjoyed every page of this book."—Ted Gioia, Millions

"Reading Martin Gardner's autobiography is like spending a pleasant afternoon in the company of a 95-year-old man with sharp memories and a twinkle in his eye. Oh wait, that's what it is."—
Science Musings blog

Library Journal
Gardner, who died in 2010, was best known for his "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American, which ran for 25 years, but he was not a trained mathematician. He was a magazine writer who happened to have a fascination with puzzles and magic—and much more. His column and his popular books of science and recreational math puzzles led many readers to enjoy those topics more than they thought possible. Gardner is also well known for his writing as a skeptic (e.g., Science: Good, Bad and Bogus) debunking the claims of pseudoscience. Unfortunately, what he calls his "rambling autobiography," evidently finished before his death, spends little time addressing these portions of his life, focusing instead on his poetry and religious philosophy. Even so, these anecdotes could have told an intriguing story had they not been presented in such a disjointed manner that they never flow. Sadly missing are details of Gardner's life. While he never mentions when he was born and other usual details of an autobiography, he spends several pages trying to convince the reader that L. Frank Baum (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, etc.) was one of our greatest authors. VERDICT May disappoint all but the most avid Martin Gardner fans.—William Baer, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400847983
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Course Book
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 123,019
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Martin Gardner (1914-2010) was an acclaimed popular mathematics and science writer whose broad interests encompassed such subjects as philosophy, religion, stage magic, and the writings of Lewis Carroll and G. K. Chesterton. His numerous books include "The Annotated Alice", "When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish: And Other Speculations about This and That", and "Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science".
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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
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