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Professor Colm Mulcahy Featured in Best Writing on Mathematics

January 2016

Colm Mucahy, Ph.D.An article by Colm Mulcahy, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of the Department of Mathematics, is featured in the newly released book, The Best Writing on Mathematics 2015 (Princeton, Jan. 2016).

Originally published in the October 2014 issue of Scientific American and co-written by Dana Richards, the piece "Let the Games Continue,” discusses how Martin Gardner, the longtime author of the magazine’s celebrated Mathematical Games column, still inspires mathematicians and puzzle lovers. 

Mulcahy has been a professor at Spelman since 1988, and has trained extensively in algebra and written papers on CAGC and wavelets. Since 2000, he has been at the forefront of publishing original "mathemagical" principles and effects, particularly in his long-running bi-monthly column Card Colm for the Mathematical Association of America.

Mulcahy tweets @CardColm, manages the Spelman math department account @Spelman_Math
, and blogs for the Huffington Post, Scientific American, and the Aperiodical. Some of his puzzles have appeared on the New York Times website, and his 380-page book of largely original creations, "Mathematical Card Magic: Fifty-Two New Effects" (AK Peters/CRC Press), was published in Aug. 2013.

He's particularly active in Gathering for Gardner and the associated Celebration of Mind initiative. Mulcahy was fortunate to know the mathematician for the last ten years of Gardner's life, and he chairs the Martin Gardner Centennial Committee. He was also part of the team which headed Mathematics Awareness Month in 2014. One of his recent projects is the creation and curation of the free online Archive of Irish Mathematics and Mathematicians.

In His Own Words . . . Mulcahy Reflects Upon His Experiences With Martin Gardner

This video on Martin Gardner was created by Colm Mulcahy with assistance from Dan Bascelli, coordinator for instructional technology at Spelman

Growing up in Ireland, I read some of Martin Gardner's books based on his legendary Scientific American column. It's been said of him that he turned thousands of teenagers into mathematicians, and thousands of mathematicians into teenagers. 

It was an unexpected thrill fifteen years ago to get to know this most influential and productive man, who was still very active in his 90s, and to learn that he'd written over 100 books on math puzzles, physics, philosophy and even Alice in Wonderland!

He was very kind and generous and suggested that I write a book on my own mathematical magic creations, which I eventually did.  After he died, I found myself giving many talks and writing a lot about his amazing legacy, including a guest, op ed piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  I also created all of the content for the website http://martin-gardner.org/, and started curating the associated Twitter accounts. 

At the end of 2014, to mark the centennial of Martin's birth, Scientific American asked me to write an extensive article on him, which I ended up doing in collaboration with his biographer Dana Richards. It was a very long, rigorous editorial process, and a great learning experience. 


Obviously, it is wonderful to find this piece included in The Best Writing on Mathematics 2015 from Princeton University Press. 

Maybe now my students will believe me when I assure them that good writing skills are very important in mathematics too.