One of the world’s leading mathematicians John Conway died on 11 April suffering from Covid-19. He is most famous for creating the Game of Life a computer game in which the player inputs a starting arrangement on a grid of cells. The computer then follows simple rules (algorithms) and the system evolves. Conway himself later professed to hate the Game of Life because it overshadowed his more important mathematical work, however it became hugely popular in computing. The breadth and depth of Conway’s work was truly astounding, but he was always fascinated by games and recreational mathematics
Colm Mulcahy and John Conway at Moves Conference in 2017
John Horton Conway was born on Dec. 26, 1937, in Liverpool, England. He studied maths in Cambridge and stayed on as an academic until 1986 when he moved to Princeton, USA as the John Von Neumann Chair of Mathematics. He died in New Jersey, aged 82.
Conway inspired many young people to study mathematics and had a celebrity standing among mathematicians. He co-authored the book Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays with Elwyn Berlekamp and Richard Guy. All three passed away in the space of a year and two days. Elwyn Berlekamp was 78, Richard Guy was 103, all three still active in maths and in promoting maths.
There are numerous online tributes that will be of interest to mathematicians and also accessible to young people interested in maths. We would recommend:
New York Times obituary by his biographer Siobhan Roberts
- Contributions by those who knew him and features with Conway himself. Including popular Maths Week Presenter Colm Mulcahy (pictured above)
another Maths Week regular gives his personal reminiscences here