Genius At Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway

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9781620405932: Genius At Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway
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Conway is a creative genius." --Martin Gardner An unabashed original, John Horton Conway is Archimedes, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, and Richard Feynman all rolled into one--a singular mathematician, with a rock star's charisma, a sly sense of humor, a polymath's promiscuous curiosity, and a burning desire to explain everything about the world to everyone in it. Born in Liverpool in 1937, Conway found fame as a barefoot Cambridge professor. He discovered the Conway groups in mathematical symmetry, and invented the aptly named surreal numbers, as well as the cult classic Game of Life--more than a cool fad, Life demonstrates how simplicity generates complexity and the game provides an analogy for all mathematics and the entire universe. Moving to Princeton in 1987, as a mathemagician he deployed cards, ropes, dice, coat hangers, and even the odd Slinky as props to extend his winning imagination and share his mathy obsessions with signature contagion. He is a jet-setting ambassador-at-large for the beauties of all things mathematical. Genius At Play is an intimate investigation into the mind of an endearing genius, laying bare Conway's personal and professional idiosyncrasies. The intimacy comes courtesy of the man himself. He generously granted Roberts full access, though not without the occasional grudge and grumble: "Oh hell," he'd say. "You're not going to put that in the book. Are you?!?

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Review:

John Horton Conway [is] perhaps the greatest living genius unknown to the general public. (starred review Publishers Weekly)

Science journalist Roberts's new biography of Conway demonstrates how the man's playfulness and originality has fed into the creativity and intelligence of his ideas. The tome resonates with Conway's voice--which gets its own special font--and his discussions with the author dictate the story's structure and provide the narrative's best glimpses into how his mind darts and weaves. (Scientific American)

Part of what makes GENIUS AT PLAY so engaging is her detailed account of her experience and impressions as Mr. Conway, over eight years, recounted the many stories that make up his life. (The New York Times Numberplay blog)

A fascinating read from start to finish . . . never gets bogged down in mathematical detail, yet it conveys much of the unstoppable excitement of its hero in full throttle. Roberts has already won kudos for her book on geometer Donald Coxeter, and this volume serves to cement her position as a top mathematical biographer. (Huffington Post)

In this engrossing biography, readers see this genius repeatedly turn perplexities into breakthroughs . . . [Conway's] personality that emerges from this freewheeling narrative responds to even deep confusion with an irresistible playfulness. (starred review Booklist)

[An] entertaining portrait of a charismatic genius. (Kirkus Reviews)

GENIUS AT PLAY gives us as much insight into the calculus of Conway's creative powers as we are capable of capturing with our limited powers. (Buffalo News)

GENIUS AT PLAY is a portrait of one creative genius by another. Absolutely brilliant. Impossible to put down. (Sylvia Nasar, author of A BEAUTIFUL MIND and GRAND PURSUIT)

A delightful meta-biography--playful indeed--of a brilliant iconoclast. (James Gleick, author of THE INFORMATION and CHAOS)

It's a riveting read, and you don't need to be a mathematician to enjoy it. (Baron Martin Rees of Ludlow, UK Astronomer Royal and author of JUST SIX NUMBERS)

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An inadvertently authorized biography.

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