I apologize for being late to the game on this one, but I only just learned this morning that Martin Gardner died back in late May at age 95. Gardner was a math and science writer, a creator of math and logic puzzles, and a famous debunker of pseudoscience–but what earned him my respect and admiration was his work on one of his fellow mathematicians who also happens to be one of my all-time favorite writers: Lewis Carroll.
Gardner is considered perhaps the authority on the writings of Lewis Carroll, and has released two wonderful, readable, annotated editions of Carroll’s work, The Annotated Alice — drilling down in both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass — as well as The Annotated Snark, which dissects one of Carroll’s lesser-known extended poems. In Gardner’s books, I learned to appreciate some of Carroll’s more morbid jokes, ruminated on possible answers to the Mad Hatter’s unanswered riddle (“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”), came to appreciate the Red King Syndrome, and watched him map out Alice’s moves through the looking glass world on a chess board — including one moment when the King is actually in check.
I don’t know much else about Gardner except that I loved his books — they’re still on my shelf — and encourage any fan of Carroll’s work to seek them out and read them. Well done, Martin Gardner.
Gardner was also an important voice in the Skeptic community, being a founding member of CSICOP.