# Prominent non-mathematical work of mathematicians

First of all, sorry if this post is not appropriate for this forum.

I have a habit that every time I read a beautiful article I look at the author's homepage and often find amazing things.

Recently I read a paper of Andrew Hicks and when I opened his homepage I found many links about his invention: Flawless wing mirrors (car mirror).

I would not be surprised if this invention was made by a non-mathematician. His mirror is an amazing invention to me because every day I see it, but didn't know its inventor is a mathematician! Anyway, I want to ask

Question 1: Are there mathematicians who have done outstanding/prominent non-mathematical work like inventions, patents, solving social/economical/etc. problems, papers in these areas, etc.?

Of course, one can say that almost all technology nowadays is based on the work of mathematicians, but I'm asking for specific contributions/innovations.

I want to ask a similar question (Maybe it will be useful for those who are looking for a job!):

Question 2: Which mathematicians are working in non-mathematical areas/companies?

Note: Please add to your answers the name and the work of the mathematician.

• Unabomber has to be #1 on this list. Aug 20 '20 at 15:26
• Not clear if it fits, but Emanuel Lasker was a Chess World Champion and a mathematician. I understand that he proved some important results in Commutative Algebra. Aug 20 '20 at 15:42
• A good question here would need good delineation of "mathematician" and of "non-mathematical work". In the absence of that, I find this vague and I've downvoted Aug 20 '20 at 17:32
• The question is too vague. Before 18 century, all mathematicians had non-mathematical jobs since there were no mathematical jobs.So probably you mean modern times. It is also not clear who exactly is counted as a mathematician. Aug 20 '20 at 23:24
• @Piyush if we put Unabomber on the list, then we should also make room for André Bloch, mathematician and triple murderer. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/André_Bloch_(mathematician) Aug 20 '20 at 23:50

Samuel Eilenberg, one of the key mathematicians of the XX Century (co-created category theory, systematized homological algebra, opened new roads in topology, etc), was a good example:

he had (at least) TWO LIVES, with only one thing in common, his short name, Sammy.

In the first one he was the mathematician, whereas in the other he was a formidable expert and collector of Chinese and far-eastern ancient pottery (and other artifacts as well). He was world-famous in his second life just like he was in his first one (when he died he donated his immense collection to NYC, you can still admire it here).

What is funny (and a bit odd ) is this: Sammy did not like to mix his two lives at all. At his funeral, the two groups (mathematicians and art collectors) collided for the first and last time. Nobody could believe that Prof. Eilenberg, the Math Genius, and Prof. Eilenberg, one of the greatest authorities in ancient eastern arts, were one and the same man.

POST SCRIPT

I have done some research on Sammy's life as art collector: apparently, he was struck by the beauty of indian art during a trip to India. From that point on, he decided that he had to assemble a collection of eastern art and craftmanship, which he did in the next 30 + years. Now I finally see what the two Eilenberg had in common: a passion for aesthetics, for the formal beauty of structures. Alex Heller wrote the following words to honor his Teacher Sammy:

As I perceived it, then, Sammy considered that the highest value in mathematics was to be found, not in specious depth nor in the overcoming of overwhelming difficulty, but rather in providing the definitive clarity that would illuminate its underlying order. This was to be accomplished by elucidating the true structure of the objects of mathematics. Let me hasten to say that this was in no sense an ontological quest: the true structure was intrinsic to mathematics and was to be discerned only by doing more mathematics. Sammy had no patience for metaphysical argument. He was not a Platonist; equally, he was not a non-Platonist. It might be more to the point to make a different distinction: Sammy’s mathematical aesthetic was classical rather than romantic.

• One might say that, because of his contributions to the theory of finite automata, he was also a computer scientist which, if we don't consider this part of mathematics, is a third domain of specialty. Aug 21 '20 at 0:40
• @Gro-Tsen Then I might also add Edward Spanier to the list. Also more known as a mathematician; but published fundamental, and much cited, work in theoretical computer science; mostly with S. Ginsburg. Eilenberg's work in automata theory is clearly written and still inspirational after almost 50 years, but most TCS-Researchers know that he is a famous mathematician too. However, Spanier, I guess most TCS people do not know that he is a mathematician at all. At least it is not that well-known. Aug 21 '20 at 14:56
• @StefanH A small thing, but it's Edwin, not Edward, Spanier. Aug 24 '20 at 1:00
• @DannyRuberman Oh yes, I am sorry. Thank you! Aug 24 '20 at 11:25

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), better known as Lewis Carroll.

• please expand, Noam :-). surely you can name a few things done/invented/made by Dodgson which you find outstanding... Aug 20 '20 at 15:12
• Well, probably his universally-known fictional books qualify for "outstanding/prominent non-mathematical work", or am I missing something? Aug 20 '20 at 15:15
• @BradyGilg His day job was as a mathematician. That most people don't know it doesn't make him any less of one :). Aug 20 '20 at 16:47
• If we had to quibble, it would be by saying that a mathematics lecturer at Oxford at the time wasn't expected to be a mathematician in the modern sense (i.e., a research mathematician). He did do a bit of research (I once used a lemma on his on determinants), but apparently didn't really try to be part of the research community (and there was such a thing in the UK at the time, though nothing compared to France or Germany). At any rate, that's really quibbling - Noam's answer is of course right, and we should be happy to call Dodgson a mathematician. Aug 23 '20 at 9:36
• I've also used Dodgson condensation en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodgson_condensation in one of my own papers. He certainly counts as a research mathematician in practice even if he technically wasn't one on paper. Aug 23 '20 at 16:53

I have noticed, after reading all previous answers, that no woman mathematician was listed.

My first impression is that most women mathematician born before 1960 (or maybe until today), are outstanding in non mathematics areas as they must have been activist for just having the chance of studying. Many of them were not even recognized or could work as mathematicians, because universities didn't hire women professors. A sad example is that of Emmy Noether who taught for seven year without income from the university. But besides this, there are many women contributing for medicine and biology, social equity, and inclusions of minorities in mathematics. But they are ghosts, as we do not see or know them. Here is a list with some of them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_women_in_mathematics

Here are two examples: Sophie- Germain, who, besides being a important mathematician of her time, contributed to elasticity theory and to philosophy - her philosophical work were admired and cited by Auguste Comte. She has struggled to study in her time but were recognized by the great mathematicians Lagrange and Gauss, even after they discovered that she was not Monsieur LeBlanc. ( Her history is worth reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Germain )

More recently, we have Eugenia Cheng, who is a category theorist and an accomplished pianist. She is also a writer engaged in mathematical popularization and has a column in The Wall Street Journal.

• I went to a mathematics lecture by Eugenia once and she played the keyboard in the middle of it ;) Aug 22 '20 at 0:08
• Kovalevskaya had manifold interests and wrote a novel, but apparently it was not very good (to go by my memories of what is stated in Ann Hibner Koblitz's excellent biography, which I unfortunately don't have at hand). Perhaps we need a separate question on "first-rate mathematicians who can't focus and keep doing non-outstanding work in other fields", taking care of course not to forget elements of the set who are women. Aug 23 '20 at 9:27
• "Kovalevskaya had manifold interests" Pun intended, @HAH? Aug 23 '20 at 23:35
• Lilian Pierce has also introduced musical interludes in her mathematical talks. She won the 2018 Sadosky Prize for research that "spans and connects a broad spectrum of problems ranging from character sums in number theory to singular integral operators in Euclidean spaces" including in particular "a polynomial Carleson theorem for manifolds". She is an associate professor of mathematics at Duke University, and a von Neumann Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. By age 11 she began performing professionally as a violinist. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_Pierce Aug 23 '20 at 23:39
• We will probably need a separate, (very) long list of "mathematicians who are talented instrumentalists". Aug 24 '20 at 8:12

Noam D. Elkies, who gave an answer to this question, is himself also an accomplished composer.

• Interesting. Is he currently active in mathematics? Aug 20 '20 at 15:37
• OMG. He is also winner of the 1996 World Chess Solving Championship!! duo to wiki. Aug 20 '20 at 15:40
• I think it would be topologically satisfying if Noam could write something about the achievement in physics of some mathematician gmvh ;-). Aug 21 '20 at 8:05

Fields medallist Cédric Villani is a French politician.

• en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mathematician-politicians has a long list of people who "achieved notability both as academically-trained mathematicians (with a graduate degree, or published in mathematical journals) and also as elected politicians (at a state or national level)." Daniel Biss was a member of the Illinois Senate. Kathleen Ollerenshaw was Lord Mayor of Manchester. Paul Painlevé was Prime Minister of France. Aug 20 '20 at 23:58
• The mathematician Borel was a cabinet member under the mathematician Painleve, who was Prime Minister of France. Aug 21 '20 at 3:28
• @C.F.G there is no shortage of deceiving, lying, hypocritical and/or illogical mathematicians. Aug 21 '20 at 7:33
• @C.F.G There is nothing stopping a mathematician from asserting something he or she believes to be untrue in the hope of ultimately gaining something from this deception ("suppose for a contradiction that ... ") Aug 21 '20 at 8:15
• Paul Painlevé was also the first person to be an airplane passenger in France. Aug 21 '20 at 16:28

Omar Khayyam was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet. As a mathematician, he is most notable for his work on the classification and solution of cubic equations, where he provided geometric solutions by the intersection of conics. Khayyam also contributed to the understanding of the parallel axiom. As a poet, he gave us the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – "A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou."

• Aug 23 '20 at 6:25
• Yes, that's the one. Aug 23 '20 at 6:33
• He was also one of the contributors to Solar Hijri calendar which is more accurate than the Gregorian calendar. (The GC has 1 day non-accurate after 3320 years while SHC has 1 day non-accurate after 3770 years!!) Aug 27 '20 at 7:43
• I think it is not clear that the mathematician Khayyam is the same as poet Khayyam. at least in Iran, I hear arguments about it between historians.
– ali
Jul 21 at 18:30

Jim Simons - probably best known to mathematicians for his work on the secondary characteristic classes developed various mathematical models for market trading that have been highly successful. He is an outstanding philanthropist, using much of the income from his financial engineering work to support lots of research activities through e. g. the Simons foundation: the Simons investigators awardees list includes such names as Aaronson, Aganagic, Bhargava, Daubechies, Eskin, Kapustin, Katzarkov, Kitaev, Mirzakhani, Okounkov, Ooguri, Poonen, Rouquier, Seidel, Tao, ...

• By "best known" I assume you mean best known published mathematics? The Medallion Fund, Renaissance Tech, and the Simons foundation are more well known overall by a factor of thousands. Aug 20 '20 at 16:39
• @BradyGilg Thanks, tried to clarify. Feel free to edit it, it is community wiki Aug 20 '20 at 16:45
• From the known histories, the early strategies used by Medallion Fund (which became the basis for Renaissance Technologies) were derived basically by James Ax. Later strategies were created by Elwyn Berlekamp. It seems Simons' contributions were more in the business and management aspects. Not saying this to lessen him. Realistically, given the lack of success Berlekamp had later in finance, management (and hiring) practices may be more significant than actual strategies. I think this is also more inline with the intent of the question. Aug 21 '20 at 3:24
• @Chan-HoSuh Robert Mercer is an electrical engineering PhD who also made significant contributions to Renaissance Tech, but much greater contributions to digital image processing. I did not know about James Ax. Thank you! Jul 27 at 14:42

Emanuel Lasker was a great mathematician and is regarded as one of the best chess players ever. If it counts.

• I think it's appropriate for that comment to be turned into an answer, especially since it's CW. Aug 21 '20 at 11:42
• And indeed World Chess Champion from 1894 to 1921, the longest period of time anyone has been World Chess Champion. Aug 23 '20 at 11:47
• Interesting! I knew him first as a chess player - I didn't know that he was also a mathematician. Aug 24 '20 at 19:36
• Emanuel Lasker was a great chess player, one of the best ever, and a not insignificant mathematician: he proved a basic result on ideal theory - it's familiar (in a more general form due to Noether) to anybody who has taken a course in algebraic number theory. Sep 16 '20 at 13:29
• Another way to put it is that he was someone who had an excellent paper a couple of years after his thesis, unfortunately never got a permanent job, and decided to focus on other things (including one at which he was the greatest of his age). Nov 25 '20 at 19:02

Bertrand Russell was a mathematician well-known for his philosophical and political work.

• Bertrand Russell was a philosopher who did also some math. His work in philosophy is still taught, his work in mathematics is not. Aug 20 '20 at 21:42
• @Michael The Principia are still a well-researched subject. The interest in it is by no means just historical. Aug 20 '20 at 23:11
• @TimothyChow: those programming languages and proof assistants are based on descendants of Church’s type theory. Russell’s type theory was very different, and I’ve never heard of it being taught in this connection. That said, I agree that Principia continues to be very relevant. Aug 21 '20 at 0:26
• @NajibIdrissi My point is that by all reasonable standards Russell was a philosopher who also did some math (with Whitehead) that grew out of his philosophical work. TO me this answer reads a bit like "Edward Witten is a mathematician well-known for his work in physics." Aug 21 '20 at 7:40
• You know you’ve made it when people spend inordinate amounts of time arguing whether you were a mathematician who did philosophy or a philosopher who did mathematics, all the while completely ignoring your Nobel Prize in Literature. Aug 22 '20 at 4:42

From Wikipedia: Hermann Günther Grassmann (German: Graßmann, pronounced [ˈhɛʁman ˈɡʏntɐ ˈɡʁasman]; 15 April 1809 – 26 September 1877) was a German polymath, known in his day as a linguist and now also as a mathematician.

• May be it should be said that he left Mathematics disappointed by the reception of his work and because his posibilities of teaching math were very low due to really bad reports, for example by Kummer. His book was almost ignored for more than two decades; now it is considered the father of linear algebra. Aug 22 '20 at 15:21
• @Xarles, have you read Kummer's report, and if so, do you know if it can be found online? What you wrote is a common narrative; I also heard another one - that Kummer's report was completely accurate, and whatever in Grassmann's writing we now deem important was buried in the many pages of his unclear, unrigorous and hardly readable text. I have no opinion of my own though. Aug 24 '20 at 20:54
• When I looked into Grassmann's book Die Lineale Ausdehnungslehre, ein neuer Zweig der Mathematik from 1844, my impression was, that he aimed to explain his ideas and results to philosophers like Kant. The second edition Die Ausdehnungslehre. Vollständig und in strenger Form begründet from 1862 seems already like a standard text on linear algebra. Aug 30 '20 at 6:19

Tom Lehrer published a couple of papers in mathematical statistics, and taught Mathematics at University of California, Santa Cruz for many years, but is undoubtedly better known for his three albums of humorous songs.

• Let us not forget his work on analytic and algebraic topology of locally Euclidian metrization of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifolds. Aug 21 '20 at 14:19
• @Aurelio : And this, he knew from nothing!
– gspr
Aug 21 '20 at 14:40
• Incidentally, Lehrer has recently put all his lyrics in the public domain, and made them available for download until 2024. tomlehrersongs.com Nov 25 '20 at 22:28

Felix Hausdorff wrote philosophical works, essays, poems and plays under the pseudonym Paul Mongré. Let me quote from the information of the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics in Bonn:

Hausdorff pursued, especially during the early years in Leipzig, a kind of double identity: as Felix Hausdorff, the productive mathematician, and as Paul Mongré. Under this pseudonym, Hausdorff enjoyed remarkable recognition within the German intelligentsia at the end of the 19th century as a writer, philosopher and socially critical essayist....Between 1897 and 1904, Hausdorff reached the peak of his literary-philosophical accomplishment: during this period, 18 of a total of 22 works were published under his pseudonym. These included the volume of aphorisms Sant’ Ilario: Thoughts from Zarathrustra’s Country, his critique Das Chaos in kosmischer Auslese, a book of poems entitled Ekstases, the farce Der Arzt seiner Ehre, as well as numerous essays....The play was Hausdorff’s greatest literary success, as it was performed over 300 times in 31 cities.

Anna Kiesenhofer is a mathematician at Lausanne. She works in PDE, and has nine publications listed at researchgate.

She just won a gold medal in cycling at the Tokyo Olympics.

• Jul 25 at 13:58
• This deserves a separate thread, on mathematicians who are into sports. Incredible achievement! Jul 29 at 2:32

I think that the name of Archimedes immediately springs to mind. Among its inventions are the block-and-tackle pulley systems based on the lever, the screw, the parabolic reflectors used to burn Roman ships attacking Syracuse, the mechanical planetarium.

• The story of the parabolic reflectors used to burn Roman ships attacking Syracuse is not true. It is a legend. Aug 23 '20 at 14:17
• The story is in Polybius, Plutarch and Lucian of Samosata. The Wikipedia page on Archimedes says that there are still an ongoing debate about its truth; however, some models of reflectors have been built demonstrating that the construction of such weapons was actually possible with the technology that Archimedes had at his disposal. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archimedes Aug 23 '20 at 16:21
• The wikipedia page mentions some experiments indeed but the weapon requires a lot of luck. A catapult or flaming arrows are far much easier to use for the same effect. Aug 23 '20 at 17:38

Gauß contributed to the development of the telegraph. Gauß was also an astronomer, metrology engineer and land surveyor.

• Really????????? Aug 20 '20 at 17:39
• @C.F.G Well, I don't think it was the fundamental theorem of algebra or quadratic reciprocity that got his name attached to the unit of magnetic flux density. Aug 20 '20 at 17:48
• Major inventions are not usually made by a single person (there were lightbulbs before Edison), and the telegraph is no exception. But Gauss made an essential contribution. Aug 20 '20 at 21:19
• @C.F.G : Is it a coincidence that your initials are the same as Gauss's? If not, your astonishment is a bit amusing! Aug 20 '20 at 23:15
• Some details are at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Aug 21 '20 at 1:28

Paul Painlevé was briefly prime minister of France on two separate occasions, as well as holding many other government posts including Minister of Defense. In mathematics, he is best remembered for his contributions to nonlinear differential equations.

• I mentioned Painlevé in a comment on the answer that proposed Villani. Aug 21 '20 at 7:30
• Before being mainly involved in politics (mostly $\ge 1910$), Painlevé had (1897-1906) a significant involvement in defending Alfred Dreyfus, see Des mathématiciens dans l'affaire Dreyfus (French)
– YCor
Aug 21 '20 at 16:20

Frank Ryan earned a math PhD from Rice for the dissertation "Characterization of the set of asymptotic values of a function holomorphic in the unit disc." He published two fundamental papers on the set of asymptotic values of a function holomorphic in the unit disc in Duke Mathematical Journal. [the papers, not the unit disc, were in the journal] He was an assistant professor at the Case Institute of Technology, 1967-71. He has an Erdős number of 3. He was also a lecturer in mathematics at Yale University, 1977-86.

But he is best-known as a quarterback in the National Football League, 1958-70. He led the Cleveland Browns to an NFL title in 1964.

• John Urschel played in the NFL for a couple of seasons, and has some publications in Mathematics. Aug 21 '20 at 8:02

Persi Diaconis is an accomplished magician, in addition to his mathematical career.

I'm surprise no-one has mentioned Isaac Newton. He spent almost half his career outside academia fighting against forgery at the Royal Mint. He was also an MP and wrote a huge amount on biblical chronology, alchemy, and theology.

I think Greg Egan (sci-fi author) qualifies. He has a few papers on arxiv, and made the news for his work on superpermutations, which motivates the title 'Mathematician'. He is also an occasional MO-user.

• I think Egan would be a great answer to a different question, of people whose profession is not "mathematician" doing good maths Aug 20 '20 at 18:08
• @YemonChoi why don't you ask that as a separate question? I'd answer Aubrey de Grey. Aug 20 '20 at 23:05
• @NikWeaver : That question arguably already exists. Aug 20 '20 at 23:18
• @TimothyChow and Egan and de Grey are both answers there! Never mind, then. Aug 21 '20 at 0:16

Ron Graham's mathematical work is probably familiar to most users of this website.

In his youth, he won a title as California state trampoline champion. In 1972 he was elected president of the International Jugglers' Association.

• I think later on he also won regional titles in table tennis after getting destroyed by Erdos in a table tennis game and then deciding that he had to improve. Jan 14 at 22:07
• @Hol, D. J. Albers (1996) A Nice Genius, Math Horizons, 4:2, 18-23, DOI: 10.1080/10724117.1996.11974993, "[in 1963] I saw this rather senior guy of 50 [Erdos], already quite famous, playing ping-pong during one of the breaks. He asked me if I wanted to play and I agreed. He absolutely killed me! I had played casual ping-pong but I couldn't believe that this old guy had beaten me. ... I went back to New Jersey ... I bought a table, joined a club, started playing at Bell Labs, and in the State league. I eventually became the Bell Labs champion at ping-pong, and won one of the New Jersey titles." Jan 14 at 22:22
• Also, I think mathematics is the only subject where someone aged 50 is an ''old guy''. Jan 14 at 23:48
• @Hollis I think maybe Ron meant it was (relatively) old for ping-pong. Jan 15 at 1:45

Martin Hairer has written a widely used professional audio editing software "Amadeus Pro" (https://www.hairersoft.com/).

• It is amusing to note that if you find the message board for Amadeus you'll see that Martin still personally replies to every user's troubleshooting request (e.g. hairersoft.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=7697) Aug 22 '20 at 8:20

Harald Bohr was a member of the Danish national football team for the 1908 Summer Olympics, where he won a silver medal. The semi-final against France was 17-1.

• Interesting result!!! Aug 23 '20 at 14:09
• Interestingly, Harald Bohr played professional football also together with his older brother, Niels, who also had a prominent science career. Aug 30 '20 at 10:05

I am on the fence regarding whether this question should stay open, but while it does, I thought the following example might be of interest: Peter Rosenthal, perhaps best known to mathematicians for his work on subspace lattices of operator algebras (see e.g. his book with Heydar Radjavi), developed a 2nd career/mission as a lawyer.

Link from comments: 2014 profile in the Toronto Star

• While he definitely seems to be vocal about being left-wing, the causes he represent are more often regarding basic human rights than left-wing. E.g., he has represented many cases of police brutality; see this beautiful piece on Toronto Star: thestar.com/news/crime/2014/01/05/… Aug 21 '20 at 2:42
• @auniket thank you for the clarification. I must admit that originally I omitted the adjective and then added it at the last-minute in a confused effort at sign-posting, since I couldn't remember the details that I'd heard from friends on the Canadian scene Aug 21 '20 at 2:49

Per Enflo, a Swedish mathematician known for solving the so called $$$$basis problem'', one of the problems from Scottish book (about the existence of Schauder basis). Besides being a mathematician he is also known as a talented pianist.

Joseph Fourier was also an Egyptologist.

• He was a bit more than just that. Excerpts from hiw biography on wikipedia include: "He took a prominent part in his own district in promoting the French Revolution, serving on the local Revolutionary Committee. ... Fourier accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte on his Egyptian expedition ... Cut off from France by the British fleet, he organized the workshops on which the French army had to rely for their munitions of war ... In 1801, Napoleon appointed Fourier Prefect (Governor) of the Department of Isère in Grenoble, where he oversaw road construction and other projects."
– HJRW
Aug 22 '20 at 11:03
• @HJRW Equally, one should also mention Gaspard Monge, who was on the same expedition to Egypt, similarly held political appointments during the Revolution and all the while also is known for his results in geometry and as being the father of optimal transport.
– mlk
Aug 23 '20 at 6:34

Nikolai Durov, who launched Telegram with his brother Pavel Durov, has some works on Arakelov geometry.

Mathematician Eric Temple Bell

President of the MAA, 1931-32
Author of the book Men of Mathematics
Bell numbers, Bell polynomials
etc.

Also was a successful science fiction author under the pseudonym John Taine.

See the fascinating book
Reid, Constance, The Search for E.T. Bell, MAA spectrum, The Mathematical Association of America, 1993

Otto Iulievich Schmidt is now best remembered for his polar expeditions and a geophysical institute in Russia bears his name. The English wikipedia does not mention it, but he was also one of the founders of the modern theory of groups and had a strong influence on A.G. Kurosh.

• Oh -- that's the Schmidt from Krull-Remak-Schmidt! Aug 21 '20 at 20:07
• In the late 1950s, I had a textbook on group theory written by O.J.Schmidt (in Russian). It was very nice. Nov 27 '20 at 19:21

Richard Garfield is a mathematician and former math professor who is nowadays famous as the inventor of the wildly successful card game Magic: The Gathering, and many other card and board games. Here is what Wikipedia says about his math background:

After college, he joined Bell Laboratories, but soon after decided to continue his education and attended the University of Pennsylvania, studying combinatorial mathematics for his PhD. Garfield studied under Herbert Wilf and earned a Ph.D. in combinatorial mathematics from Penn in 1993. His thesis was On the Residue Classes of Combinatorial Families of Numbers. Shortly thereafter, he became a professor of mathematics at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

A colleague of mine who is somewhat knowledgeable about Magic: The Gathering once claimed that the game became as successful as it was because it was invented by a mathematician who systematically set out to create the most addictive game possible. I cannot say how much truth there is to that claim.

• It is odd that there are 4 magician in the answers!! Aug 29 '20 at 7:00
• Years ago, I visited a Penn math professor who complained that the graduate students were spending all their time in the department lounge playing card games. Nov 25 '20 at 17:21
• Years ago when I was at Cambridge the graduate students spent their time in the department lounge playing Conway games. Nov 25 '20 at 22:21