Earlier this month UC Berkeley professor emeritus of mathematics David Gale passed away. Gale made a number of significant contributions to mathematics and he loved puzzles, games, and finding beauty in mathematics. Gale's daughter had this to say:
"He thought math was beautiful, and he wanted people to understand that," said his daughter, Katharine Gale. "But he was emphatic that the way for people to get the beauty and elegance of mathematics was to engage in it, not just be told about it."
She recalled that her father would discuss his mathematical work at the dinner table and share with his children his fascination with chess puzzles, card games, puzzle blocks and interlocking puzzles, as well as with all types of math games. Throughout his life, Gale would insist that visitors look at the newest puzzle he was working on. According to his daughter, just before his death, Gale e-mailed a colleague to discuss the mathematics of Sudoku, a popular game where players place numbers on a nine-by-nine grid.
Gale invented two games: Bridg-it and Chomp. He also wrote a recreational Math book, Tracking the Automatic Ant: And Other Mathematical Explorations.
Gale developed, in 2003, an interactive Math "museum." The site is really wonderful for exploration and it does not require much mathematical sophistication to understand and enjoy. There are currently three major "exhibits" in the museum: Dissecting Triangles and Squares, Sorting Bricks and Sticks, and Geometric Orbits. All three are hands-on interactive exhibits. I really enjoyed the dissection exhibit as it showed me how to systematically dissect various shapes and put them back together to form other shapes. I had always wondered how to do basic dissections and now I know. The sorting exhibit is a hands-on exploration into how sorting algorithms work. The geometric orbits exhibit is one that students with a basic understanding of geometry should become engrossed by.
I'm delighted that David Gale has left his legacy of a mathematical museum to all curious students.