American Go E-Journal

Go Spotting: the Economist

Saturday May 2, 2020

Dave Weimer reports that the April 25th to May 1st issue of The Economist includes an obituary for mathematician John Horton Conway on page 82, who died at age 82. He taught at Cambridge and Princeton, and was famous for inventing the Game of Life, which was widely played after it was published in Scientific American in 1970. He discovered “surreal numbers” and made contributions to a variety of fields in mathematics. “He seems to have been a bit eccentric,” says Weimer. “The following passage caught my attention: ‘Or, ensconced in some hallway nook, he would just observe a game. It had been while watching Go players that he realized each game contained many sub-games; and this had led him, first, to surreal numbers, and second to the light-bulb thought that playing games was not a distraction from mathematics. It was mathematics.'”