Top 10 Martin Gardner Obscure Facts

  1. Not all of Martin's Scientific American columns resurfaced, revised, in one of the fifteen canonical spin-off books.

    "Concerning an effort to demonstrate extrasensory perception by machine" from Oct 1975 (Vol 233, No 4, 114–118) appears in none of them, unlike the rest of the 300 odd "Mathematical Games" columns he wrote from Jan 1956 to May 1985.

  2. Martin was a skilled caricaturist and illustrator.

    Examples of the former, from his undergraduate days (1932–1936), can be found among the pictures used to spice up his memoirs. He also did the artwork for some of his early magic pamphlets and books, such as Over the Coffee Cups (Montandon Magic, 1949) and Mathematics, Magic and Mystery (Dover, 1956).

  3. Martin ghost wrote a book on magic in 1937.

    Joe Berg (1901–1984) was a real person, a well-known and respected Chicago magician and magic dealer, but his Here's New Magic (Joe Berg, 1937) was actually ghost written by Martin.

  4. In 1967, Martin was lucky enough to publish thirteen articles in Scientific American.

    In addition to his dozen regular "Mathematical Games" columns, there was the one-off article "Can time go backward?" from Jan 1967 (Vol 216, No 1, 98–106). It showed up again a quarter of a century later in Are Universes Thicker than Blackberries? (W. W. Norton, 2003).

  5. Martin ghost wrote a book on geometry in 1957.

    An Adventure in Geometry (Viking, 1957, illustrated by Anthony Ravielli) was credited to Martin's friend (and frequent illustrator) Ravielli, but the text was written by Martin.

    (It was Ravielli who provided the artwork for the valve flush toilet allegedly invented by da Vinci which appeared in the April Fool column of Scientific American in 1975.)

  6. Martin wrote for Sports Illustrated in 1965.

    Martin's 1967 book The Annotated Casey at the Bat: A Collection of Ballads about the Mighty Casey (Potter, 1967) grew out of an article he wrote for Sports Illustrated in 1965.

  7. Martin ghost wrote a book on bowling in 1958.

    10 Secrets of Bowling (Viking, 1958, illustrated by Anthony Ravielli) was credited to bowling legend Don Carter. The cover says it's "the complete feature from Sports Illustrated plus additional text and illustrations"—a reference to the 17 Nov 1957 article with "16 illustrated pages in which Bowling Editor Victor Kalman presents in detail, for the first time, the scientific style of the sport's greatest figure." In fact, the text is less wordy than the magazine feature; Martin wrote it.

  8. Martin was quoted by John Fowles in the preface to the final chapter of his novel The French Lieutenant's Woman, published in 1969.

    The quote was about evolution, and was borrowed (in abbreviated form) from Martin's The Ambidextrous Universe: Left, Right, and the End of Parity (Basic, 1964).

  9. It's not quite true that Martin never took a mathematics class in college.

    Despite the oft-repeated tale—sometimes from his own lips (or pen)—that he never took any mathematics past high school, Martin's University of Chicago transcript lists Mathematical Analysis for Spring 1935. The grade indicatd ('R') suggests that it was just one of the many classes he audited. In his memoirs, he comments that he audited more classes than he took for credit. This was consistent with the approach to education encouraged by the University of Chicago at this time.

    (Martin had also published in Scripta Mathematica several times before his much-vaunted mid-1950s "switch" to mathematics writing in Scientific American.)

  10. An article Martin wrote in The New York Times Book Review inspired the Broadway musical The Wiz.

    Preeminent Oz scholar Michael Patrick Hearn reports, "Producer Ken Harper told me that Martin's front page article We're Off To See The Wizard; We're Off to See The Wizard on L. Frank Baum and The Wizard of Oz in The New York Times Book Review on May 2, 1971, gave him the idea for the all-Black musical The Wiz. Ken and Charlie Smalls actually premiered the score at my book party that Martin also attended."

    The Wiz opened in Baltimore, MD, on 21 Oct 1974, Martin's 60th birthday, before evetually moving to Broadway and greater acclaim.