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Undiluted Hocus-Pocus:
The Autobiography of Martin Gardner
Martin Gardner
With a foreword by Persi Diaconis and an afterword by James Randi

One of American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Books for General Audiences and Young Adults 2014

Paperback | 2015 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691169699
Hardcover | 2013 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691159911
288 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 54 halftones.
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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, religion, and Alice in Wonderland. Gardner's illuminating autobiography is a candid self-portrait by 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 varied and wide-ranging professional pursuits. He 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.

Martin Gardner (1914–2010) was an acclaimed popular mathematics and science writer. His numerous books include The Annotated Alice, When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish, and Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.


"His radiant self lives on in his massive and luminous literary output and shines at its sweetest, wittiest and most personal in Undiluted Hocus-Pocus."--Teller, New York Times Book Review

"For those of us who believe that the sciences and the humanities don't have to be enemies, Martin Gardner is an inspiring model. Undiluted Hocus-Pocus reveals a man immersed in philosophy, religion and literature, even as he makes a career writing about science."--Jordan Ellenberg, Wall Street Journal

"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."--Publishers Weekly

"For half a century, Martin Gardner (1914-2010) was an international scientific treasure. . . . Gardner's passion for writing and his warmth and humour shine forth on every page of this book, making it a memoir of a great human being."--David Singmaster, Nature

"Zealously debunking science fads and declaring his bafflement at the human brain, maths writer Martin Gardner was on fine form in this posthumous memoir."--Nature

"The style is that of a memoir, conversationally phrased, and not afraid to be sidetracked occasionally by an amusing aside. Gardner paints vividly an inside picture of American intellectual life in the twentieth century, coloured by honest accounts of the many influential figures with whom he came into contact."--Alexander Shannon, Plus magazine

"His illuminating autobiography, Undiluted Hocus-Pocus . . . offers a rare, intimate look at Gardner's life and work."--Mother Nature Network

"In summary, I give this book the highest praise that I can possibly give an autobiography: it was much too short."--Charles Ashbacher, MAA Reviews

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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

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Persi Diaconis:


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