The death has just occurred of Martin Gardner (1914-2010), for 25 years (1956-1981) the writer of the superb Mathematical Games column of Scientific American. I remember eagerly seeking each new copy of SciAm in my local public library to read Gardner’s column each month, and devouring all of his books that I could find. His articles interested me despite my general contempt for games and competitions, and for ad hoc approaches to mathematical reasoning.
Scientific American’s tribute page is here, and here is a just-posted transcript of a February 1979 conversation between Gardner and other mathematicians. This transcript contains a wonderful statement by mathematician Stan Ulam:
In fact, you know, yesterday Ron Graham gave a marvelous, really interesting lecture about some esoteric question; and I was wondering during it, Well, the question sounds very complicated, why devote so much ingenuity? Then I remember what, I think, Fourier or Laplace wrote: That mathematics—one reason for its being—is to defend the honor of the human mind.”