Genius at Play

  • by Siobhan Roberts
  • Narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck
  • 15 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

"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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Brilliant Iconoclast

This is a biography of the mathematician John H. Conway. Roberts quotes Conway throughout the book along with corroborating facts with other people who were there. Many of the mathematicians quoted in the book have their own biographies written.

The book is written with great appreciation for Conway in spite of his serial philandering and absolute rejection of all responsibility for his personal affairs. Roberts covers Conway’s suicide attempt. Of course a book about a mathematician will have math in it.

He discovered the Conway groups in mathematical symmetry. His names is in group theory, game theory, knot theory, abstract algebra, geometry and his famous creation of Conway’s Game of Life, a set of rules for propagating a pattern that generates incredible complexity.

The book is well written and at times hilarious. Most of the information comes from the author’s interviews with Conway. Jennifer Van Dyck narrated the book. Van Dyck is a new narrator for me and I was impressed with her ability.

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- Jean "I am an avid eclectic reader."

The author gives up in the end

Not well organized, not well written. The biography is more like a collection of gossips. But of course, Conway himself is fantastic.
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- honeyclover

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-15-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios for Bloomsbury