A renowned Princeton mathematician, forever favoured by programmers, and a man who invented the Game of Life, John Horton Conway has died, at the age of 82, due to COVID-19 infection.
Conway was a mathematician, who has made contributions in the areas like finite groups, knot theory, number theory, combinatorial game theory and coding theory, and has also invented a new system of numbers, aka ‘the surreal numbers.’ The surreal numbers are a continuum of numbers that include not only real numbers but also the infinitesimal and the infinite numbers. Alongside he also invented a naming system for exceedingly large numbers, the Conway chained arrow notation.
In a recent tweet by Stephen Wolfram — a British-American computer scientist stated that “After many years of computation and lots of output, the JHC function has sadly now halted. RIP John Conway (1937-2020).”
Conway has also been widely known for his contributions to combinatorial game theory, a theory of partisan games. Over his long career, he has even invented several games; out of which the most popular one has been the Game of Life, in an early example of a cellular automaton.
Conway plays the Game of Life, which he invented in 1970. Photograph: Kelvin Brodie/the Sun
Persi Diaconis, a mathematician at Stanford University once said in an interview — “John Conway is a genius. And the thing about John is he’ll think about anything.… He has a real sense of whimsy. You can’t put him in a mathematical box.”
For his contributions, the charismatic Conway has also received several awards. A few of the renowned ones are — The Berwick Prize in 1971; selected as ‘fellow’ in the Royal Society in 1981; the first winner of the Pólya 1987 award; winner of the Mathematics Nemmers Prize in 1998); and the Lewroy P. Steele Prize in 2000.