John Horton Conway  

Born  Liverpool, Merseyside, England 
26 December 1937
Residence  United States 
Nationality  British 
Fields  Mathematician 
Institutions  Princeton University 
Alma mater  University of Cambridge 
Thesis  Homogeneous ordered sets (1964) 
Doctoral advisor  Harold Davenport 
Doctoral students  Richard Borcherds Simon Norton Robert Wilson 
Known for  Game of life, Lookandsay sequence 
Notable awards  Berwick Prize (1971), Polya Prize (1987), Nemmers Prize in Mathematics (1998), Leroy P. Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition (2000) 
John Horton Conway (born 26 December 1937) is a British mathematician active in the theory of finite groups, knot theory, number theory, combinatorial game theory and coding theory. He has also contributed to many branches of recreational mathematics, notably the invention of the cellular automaton called the Game of Life.
Conway is currently Professor of Mathematics and John Von Neumann Professor in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University. He is also currently a visiting professor at CUNY's Queens College. He studied at Cambridge, where he started research under Harold Davenport. He received the Berwick Prize (1971),^{[1]} was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (1981),^{[2]} was the first recipient of the Pólya Prize (LMS) (1987),^{[1]} won the Nemmers Prize in Mathematics (1998) and received the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition (2000) of the American Mathematical Society. He has an Erdős number of one.^{[3]}
Contents
Biography[edit]
Conway's parents were Agnes Boyce and Cyril Horton Conway. He was born in Liverpool.^{[4]} He became interested in mathematics at a very early age and his mother recalled that he could recite the powers of two when he was four years old. At the age of eleven his ambition was to become a mathematician.
After leaving secondary school, Conway entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge to study mathematics. He was awarded his BA in 1959 and began to undertake research in number theory supervised by Harold Davenport. Having solved the open problem posed by Davenport on writing numbers as the sums of fifth powers, Conway began to become interested in infinite ordinals. It appears that his interest in games began during his years studying at Cambridge, where he became an avid backgammon player, spending hours playing the game in the common room. He was awarded his doctorate in 1964 and was appointed as College Fellow and Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.
He left Cambridge in 1986 to take up the appointment to the John von Neumann Chair of Mathematics at Princeton University.
Conway resides in Princeton, New Jersey. He has seven children by various marriages, three grandchildren and four greatgrand children. He has been married three times; his first wife was Eileen, and his second wife was Larissa. He has been married to his third wife, Diana, since 2001.^{[5]}
Achievements[edit]
Combinatorial game theory[edit]
Among amateur mathematicians, he is perhaps most widely known for his contributions to combinatorial game theory (CGT), a theory of partisan games. This he developed with Elwyn Berlekamp and Richard Guy, and with them also coauthored the book Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays. He also wrote the book On Numbers and Games (ONAG) which lays out the mathematical foundations of CGT.
He is also one of the inventors of sprouts, as well as philosopher's football. He developed detailed analyses of many other games and puzzles, such as the Soma cube, peg solitaire, and Conway's soldiers. He came up with the angel problem, which was solved in 2006.
He invented a new system of numbers, the surreal numbers, which are closely related to certain games and have been the subject of a mathematical novel by Donald Knuth. He also invented a nomenclature for exceedingly large numbers, the Conway chained arrow notation. Much of this is discussed in the 0th part of ONAG.
He is also known for the invention of Conway's Game of Life, one of the early and still celebrated examples of a cellular automaton. His early experiments in that field were done with pen and paper, long before personal computers existed.
Geometry[edit]
In the mid1960s with Michael Guy, son of Richard Guy, he established that there are sixtyfour convex uniform polychora excluding two infinite sets of prismatic forms. They discovered the grand antiprism in the process, the only nonWythoffian uniform polychoron. Conway has also suggested a system of notation dedicated to describing polyhedra called Conway polyhedron notation.
He extensively investigated lattices in higher dimensions, and determined the symmetry group of the Leech lattice.
Geometric topology[edit]
Conway's approach to computing the Alexander polynomial of knot theory involved skein relations, by a variant now called the AlexanderConway polynomial. After lying dormant for more than a decade, this concept became central to work in the 1980s on the novel knot polynomials. Conway further developed tangle theory and invented a system of notation for tabulating knots, nowadays known as Conway notation, while completing the knot tables up to 10 crossings.
Group theory[edit]
He worked on the classification of finite simple groups and discovered the Conway groups. He was the primary author of the ATLAS of Finite Groups giving properties of many finite simple groups. He, along with collaborators, constructed the first concrete representations of some of the sporadic groups. More specifically, he discovered three sporadic groups based on the symmetry of the Leech lattice, which have been designated the Conway groups.
With Simon P. Norton he formulated the complex of conjectures relating the monster group with modular functions, which was named monstrous moonshine by them.
He introduced the Mathieu groupoid, an extension of the Mathieu group M_{12} to 13 points.
Number theory[edit]
As a graduate student, he proved the conjecture by Edward Waring that every integer could be written as the sum of 37 numbers, each raised to the fifth power, though Chen Jingrun solved the problem independently before the work could be published.^{[6]}
Algebra[edit]
He has also done work in algebra, particularly with quaternions. Together with Neil James Alexander Sloane, he invented the system of icosian.^{[7]}
Algorithmics[edit]
For calculating the day of the week, he invented the Doomsday algorithm. The algorithm is simple enough for anyone with basic arithmetic ability to do the calculations mentally. Conway can usually give the correct answer in under two seconds. To improve his speed, he practices his calendrical calculations on his computer, which is programmed to quiz him with random dates every time he logs on. One of his early books was on finite state machines.
Theoretical physics[edit]
In 2004, Conway and Simon B. Kochen, another Princeton mathematician, proved the Free will theorem, a startling version of the No Hidden Variables principle of Quantum Mechanics. It states that given certain conditions, if an experimenter can freely decide what quantities to measure in a particular experiment, then elementary particles must be free to choose their spins in order to make the measurements consistent with physical law. In Conway's provocative wording: "if experimenters have free will, then so do elementary particles."
Books[edit]
He has (co)written several books including the ATLAS of Finite Groups, Regular Algebra and Finite Machines, Sphere Packings, Lattices and Groups,^{[8]} The Sensual (Quadratic) Form, On Numbers and Games, Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays, The Book of Numbers, On Quaternions and Octonions,^{[9]} The Triangle Book (written with Steve Sigur)^{[10]} and in summer 2008 published The Symmetries of Things with Chaim GoodmanStrauss and Heidi Burgiel.
See also[edit]
 Conway algebra
 Conway polyhedron notation
 Conway puzzle
 Conway's LUX method for magic squares
 Conway chained arrow notation
 Conway's Game of Life
 Conway's soldiers
 Conway's thrackle conjecture
 Conway base 13 function
 Orbifold notation
 Phutball
 Pinwheel tiling
 Lookandsay sequence
 15 theorem
 FRACTRAN
Notes[edit]
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} LMS Prizewinners
 ^ List of Royal Society Fellows
 ^ Conway, J. H., Croft, H. T., Erdos, P., & Guy, M. J. T. (1979). On the distribution of values of angles determined by coplanar points. J. London Math. Soc.(2), 19(1), 137–143.
 ^ "John Conway". www.nndb.com. Retrieved 20100810.
 ^ "John Horton Conway Biography".
 ^ Breakfast with John Horton Conway
 ^ This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics (Week 20)
 ^ Guy, Richard K. (1989). "Review: Sphere packings, lattices and groups, by J. H. Conway and N. J. A. Sloane". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.) 21 (1): 142–147.
 ^ Baez, John C. (2005). "Review: On quaternions and octonions: Their geometry, arithmetic, and symmetry, by John H. Conway and Derek A. Smith". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.) 42 (2): 229–243.
 ^ http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1391661.The_Triangle_Book
References[edit]
 J.H. Conway, Regular algebra and finite machines, Chapman and Hall, 1971, ISBN 0412106205
 The Triangle Book, to appear, John H. Conway and Steve Sigur [1]
 The Symmetries of Things 2008, John H. Conway, Heidi Burgiel, Chaim GoodmanStrass, ISBN 9781568812205 Errata
 Mind As Machine, Margaret Boden, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 1271
 Symmetry, Marcus du Sautoy, HarperCollins, 2008, p. 308
 Symmetry and the Monster, Mark Ronan, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 255
 On Quaternions and Octonions, 2003, John Horton Conway and Derek A. Smith ISBN 9781568811345 [2]
Further reading[edit]
 Guy, Richard K., "Conway's Prime Producing Machine", Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Jan., 1983), pp. 26–33, Mathematical Association of America
External links[edit]
Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Horton Conway. 
 O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "John Horton Conway", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews. by O'Connor and Robertson
 Charles Seife, "Impressions of Conway", The Sciences
 Mark Alpert, "Not Just Fun and Games", Scientific American April 1999. (official online version; registrationfree online version)
 Jasvir Nagra, "Conway's Proof Of The Free Will Theorem" [3]
 John Conway: "Free Will and Determinism in Science and Philosophy" (Video Lectures)[4]
 Conway, John Horton; Curtis, Robert Turner; Norton, Simon Phillips; Parker, Richard A; Wilson, Robert Arnott (1985). Atlas of Finite Groups: Maximal Subgroups and Ordinary Characters for Simple Groups. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198531990.
 John Horton Conway at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
 Video of Conway leading a tour of brickwork patterns in Princeton, lecturing on the ordinals, and lecturing on sums of powers and Bernoulli numbers.
 Photos of John Horton Conway
 "Bibliography of John H. Conway" – Princeton University, Mathematics Department
 Conway, John H. "Does John Conway hate his Game of Life?" (video). Brady Haran. Retrieved 4 March 2014. Video commentary by Conway on his game.
 Conway, John H. "Inventing Game of Life" (video). Brady Haran. Retrieved 7 March 2014. Video commentary by Conway on his game.


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