James Randi posted today his first thoughts on the loss of his long-time friend and conspirator in skepticism, Martin Gardner. Gardner is an enormous loss to all of us: there is probably not a mathematician or scientist in the US over 40 - perhaps even over 35 - who wasn't influenced by him.
I first heard of Gardner when I was 13 from my 9th and 10th grade math teacher, Nancy Rosenberg. At the time, Gardner was in the middle of his 30-year stint writing the mathematical games column for Scientific American, and she was a huge fan. She taught us to make hexaflexagons and play Nim (which my father and I played for years on restaurant placemats while waiting for food), among other things.
I first learned about paranormal investigation from watching Randi do a lecture/demonstration at Cornell in January, 1982. But what made CSICOP, now CSI a credible organization to me was learning that Gardner (along with Randi and Carl Sagan) was a co-founder. His book Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus was the first skeptical book I read, and the presence of yet another decades-long column of his in Skeptical Inquirer was a major reason I began reading the magazine regularly. Later, of course, I founded my own.
He was still writing, sharp as ever, until very recently, well into his 90s. A great loss.