Nancy Blachman, Chair
Founder, Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival
Nancy Blachman’s love of mathematics and puzzles goes back to her high school days when she took George Polya’s short course in mathematical logic, did a research project on continued fractions, and participated in the Saint Mary’s Math Contest, which was held at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California. These experiences taught her that it was more fun to learn by discovery than to be told how to solve problems or just apply formulae. She subsequently earned degrees in mathematics, computer science, and operations research from the University of Birmingham (UK), Stanford, and UC Berkeley, respectively. She has written several books on Mathematica, in 2003 created Google Guide, and in 2007 founded the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival, which inspires students to explore the richness and beauty of mathematics in a cooperative environment.
Erik Demaine, President
Professor in Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Erik Demaine’s research interests range throughout algorithms, from data structures for improving web searches to the geometry of understanding how proteins fold to the computational difficulty of playing games. He received a MacArthur Fellowship as a “computational geometer tackling and solving difficult problems related to folding and bending—moving readily between the theoretical and the playful, with a keen eye to revealing the former in the latter”. He appears in the recent origami documentary Between the Folds, cowrote a book about the theory of folding (Geometric Folding Algorithms), and a book about the computational complexity of games (Games, Puzzles, and Computation). Together with his father, Martin Demaine, his interests span the connections between mathematics and art, including curved-crease sculptures in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian.
Colm Mulcahy, Vice President
Professor of Mathematics at Spelman College, Atlanta
Colm Mulcahy bought his first Martin Gardner book in 1975, and had the pleasure of getting to know the man himself starting in 2000. His own book Mathematical Card Magic: Fifty-Two New Effects on original mathematical card principles was published in 2013. He has written for MAA.org, Huffington Post, Aperiodical and Scientific American.
Robert Crease, Secretary
Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University
Robert P. Crease has written, translated, or edited over a dozen books on history and philosophy of science, and is Past Chair of the Forum for History of Physics of the American Physical Society. He is Co-editor-in-chief of Physics in Perspective, and for 18 years he has written a column, “Critical Point,” on the historical and philosophical dimensions of science for Physics World. His next book is The Workshop and the World: What Ten Thinkers Can Tell Us about Science and Authority, to be published by Norton in March. Website: robertpcrease.com
Rick Sommer, Treasurer
Executive Director, Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies at Stanford University
Rick has a Ph.D. in mathematics from UC Berkeley. As assistant professor at Stanford he helped launch the Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC) in 1995, and around the same time he became involved in Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY). Rick has enthusiastically pursued these interests ever since, and now serves as Executive Director for Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies.
James Gardner, Board Member
Professor at the University of Oklahoma
Jim is a Professor of Special Education at the University of Oklahoma, with interests in universal design for learning and assistive technologies. He manages the intellectual property of Martin Gardner, and is currently involved in a variety of projects with publishers and organizations to continue the legacy of his father’s work.
Bob Hearn, Board Member
Bob Hearn was raised on Martin Gardner books and Scientific American articles. This developed into a lifelong interest in mathematics and puzzles, leading to a Ph.D. at MIT and a resulting book, Games, Puzzles, and Computation, with Erik Demaine. Along the way he co-wrote the once-popular Mac program ClarisWorks, and participated in a number of other software startups. Bob’s other passion is running ultramarathons; he currently holds five American Records for over age 50. Bob has attended the Gathering 4 Gardner since 2002, and has been the G4G Program Chair and MC since 2015.
Vickie Kearn, Board Member
Former Mathematics Editor, Princeton University Press
Prior to retiring in April 2019, Vickie was the executive editor for mathematics and computer science at Princeton University Press for 18 years. Vickie always loved numbers and puzzles as a young child but it was her high school math teacher who really lit a spark by showing her the connections between the people and the equations. Every number has a story and a person behind it. She taught school for 8 years before beginning her 42 year career in publishing. Her goal has always been to connect every bit of math to the person responsible for it or to a use for it. No one should fear math and just as no one hates music, no one should hate math. Her goal as a member of the board is to continue to promote the joy Martin Gardner brought to recreational math.
Robert Vallin, Board Member
Mathematics Professor, Lamar University
Robert W. Vallin is a mathematics professor at Lamar University in southeast Texas. He’s the author of research, pedagogy, and expository papers on several different subjects and of the book The Elements of Cantor Sets. He is the founder of the Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America for Recreational Mathematics (SIGMAA-Rec). Outside of mathematics he is a magic enthusiast with a predisposition toward card magic.
Jade Vinson, Board Member
Founder, Talking Leaves NC
Jade Vinson, founder of Talking Leaves NC, has worked in a range of applied fields including cryptography, genomics, finance, and AI. He earned his PhD at Princeton University, where he studied random matrices. He serves on the board of the National Museum of Mathematics and also supports the Bridges Organization.
Scott Vorthmann, Board Member
Software Architect and vZome Author
Scott Vorthmann earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech, with a minor in Mathematics. After some postdoctoral work at Carnegie Mellon University, and a brief and unsuccessful flirtation with entrepreneurship, he entered the enterprise software industry, where he has remained. Scott’s passion for recreational mathematics, born of many hours with Martin Gardner’s column in Scientific American, finds its principal outlet in the ongoing development of vZome (https://vzome.com), a free software application for modeling Zometool (https://zometool.com) and similar geometric systems. He also helps to coordinate meetings of “BAAM!”, the Bay Area Artists and Mathematicians, and enjoys hosting occasional meetings at his home.
Growing up solving puzzles and exploring the recreational side of mathematics, Nick was inspired largely by the many books from Martin Gardner. Nick regularly attends the annual International Puzzle Party, and serves as the USA president of the International Puzzle Collectors Association. He is also director of the annual US Puzzle Championship, and has led Team USA as a contestant or captain to 14 titles over the 28-year history of the World Puzzle Championship. He recently qualified for the Red Bull Escape Room World Championship. Nick lives in SF Bay Area, enjoying the active community of local puzzlers, mathematicians, and escape rooms. He has been fortunate enough to attended all 13 Gathering for Gardner conferences.
An erstwhile software engineer and now book editor by profession, Mark Burstein, a noted scholar, collector, and president emeritus of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, has edited, introduced, or contributed to twenty books on Lewis Carroll, including editing and art-directing the 150th Anniversary Edition of Gardner’s Annotated Alice and the trade edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dalí. He also produced A Bouquet for the Gardener: Martin Gardner Remembered, which consists of a biography, remembrances, tributes, a bibliography, and a Festschrift by such writers as Doug Hofstadter, David Singmaster, Scott Kim, and Ray Smullyan.
is a sculptor and applied mathematician who demonstrates how mathematics is cool and creative in ways you might not have expected. Whether he is slicing a bagel into two linked halves or leading hundreds of participants in an intricate geometric sculpture barn raising, he always finds original ways to share the beauty of mathematical thinking. Hart co-founded the Museum of Mathematics in New York City and developed its initial set of hands-on exhibits. He also makes videos that show the fun and creative sides of mathematics.
(a.k.a. Iwahiro) is a notable Japanese puzzle designer awarded several highest prizes in the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition. He has written or translated (into Japanese) about twenty books on mathematics, puzzles, and philosophy, including translation of The New Martin Gardner Mathematical Library series, four of which have been published so far. Professionally, he is one of the most noted actuaries in Japan. He gives lectures on modern actuarial science in different forms including regular classes at the Institute of Actuaries of Japan, Tokyo University, and Waseda University. He is the Asian President of the International Puzzle Collectors Association.
Puzzle Designer and Educational game designer
Scott is a puzzle designer, visual artist and educational game designer. His puzzles have appeared in magazines (Discover, Scientific American, Games), electronic games (Tetris, Bejeweled), and books (The Playful Brain, with Richard Restak). He is the author of Inversions, a collection of his ambigram lettering designs. He has degrees in music and computer science from Stanford University. He is passionate about bringing games into math education, having designed educational games for ThinkFun and ABCmouse.com.
Mark performs and produces events all over the world. He has performed magic for business leaders, star athletes, Nobel prize-winning scientists, royalty and rock stars, economic migrants on the island of Lesbos and hospitalized children around New York City. Inspired by Martin Gardner, Mark believes that the craft of magic can be used to consider surprising possibilities in many aspects of life, including mathematics, education, perception and memory.
Jeannine has been folding paper since she was five and designing new models since she was eight. Her designs are abstract and mathematical. Inspired at an early age by the writings of Martin Gardner, she decided to study mathematics in college. This eventually led to a career writing geometric modeling software for computer aided design. She has led several projects that engaged hundreds of volunteers to create large scale modular origami sculptures, including the Menger Sponge, the Mosely Snowflake Fractal and a model of Union Station in Worcester, MA. She has also developed numerous curved origami models using differential geometry and computers. She now works for Akamai Technologies, writing software that tracks and controls internet traffic.
(chair) is a full professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Most of his research is in combinatorics, probability, and dynamical systems theory, with forays into the study of cellular automata and games. His monthly essays are posted at his Mathematical Enchantments blog. One of his essays, “The Paintball Party”, was published in Math Horizons and won the 2018 Trevor Evans Award from the Mathematical Association of America; another essay, “Prof. Engel’s Marvelously Improbable Machines”, also published in Math Horizons, will appear in the Princeton University Press anthology Best Writing on Mathematics 2018.
is a professor of Computer Science at George Mason University. His day job revolves around Theoretical Computer Science and Algorithms. His avocation revolves around puzzles and truthfully there is not much difference between the two. He has concentrated on the life and work of Martin Gardner. With just a little prodding he can be transformed into a Sherlockian.
Magician and Inventor
Mark is a co-founder and past President of the Gathering for Gardner. He is a Magician and inventor of games, puzzles and magic, with over 50 of his creations marketed by companies worldwide. He is the author of “The Magic Show”, an interactive book that performs magic. In 2014, the Academy of Magical Arts awarded him a Creative Fellowship and lifetime membership to the Magic Castle, Hollywood, California.
Dr. Shakalli is a Panamanian mathematician who loves to share her passion for mathematics with the general public. She is the Executive Director of the Panamanian Foundation for the Promotion of Mathematics (FUNDAPROMAT), a private non-profit Foundation whose mission is to promote the study of mathematics in the Republic of Panama. She is the International Mathematical Union (IMU)’s Committee for Women in Mathematics (CWM) Ambassador for Panama and is a member on the Board of Directors of several professional organizations. Dr. Shakalli has organized more than 50 math outreach events in the Republic of Panama, including Math Carnivals, MathsJams, Julia Robinson Mathematics Festivals, Celebrations of Mind and Origami Workshops, as well as more than 100 virtual events for FUNDAPROMAT on recreational mathematics.
Professor of Mathematics at Mercer University, is a leader in the field of mathematical fiber arts—and one of its initial promoters. For two decades she has co-organized an annual open gathering of mathematical fiber artists and she has co-edited three beautiful, multi-authored books that bring the mathematical fiber arts to life. An accomplished fiber artist who explores deep relationships between mathematics and art, she is currently expanding her craft to include other media. Dr. Yackel is also nationally active in undergraduate education, currently chairing the Mathematical Association of America’s Committee for the Teaching of Undergraduate Mathematics.