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Obituaries

COVID-19 Kills Renowned Princeton Mathematician, 'Game Of Life' Inventor John Conway In 3 Days

John Horton Conway, 82, a renowned mathematician and Princeton University professor, died of coronavirus. Photo Credit: Thane Plambeck Wikipedia
"His passing was sudden (fever started only Wednesday morning)," Wang wrote. "Part of coronavirus's hard toll in New Jersey." Photo Credit: Sam Wang Twitter

Renowned mathematician and Princeton University professor John Horton Conway died April 11 of coronavirus. He was 82 .

Princeton scientist Sam Wang in mourning Conway's death noted his fever started Wednesday morning. Three days later, he died.

"I am sorry to confirm the passing of my colleague John Conway. An incomparable mathematician, a pleasant neighbor, and an excellent coffee acquaintance," Wang tweeted. "Part of coronavirus's hard toll in New Jersey."

Born in Liverpool, England, Conway knew at 11 years old he wanted to be a mathematician.

Conway's most notable contribution to his field may have been his invention of the Game of Life, leading to the popularization of cellular automaton.

Done on pen and paper, long before the invention of personal computers, the game became integral for both theoretical interest and practical exercise in data programming and display, reports say.

In 1981, Conway was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. 

His nomination described him as "a versatile mathematician who combines a deep combinatorial insight with algebraic virtuosity, particularly in the construction and manipulation of 'off-beat' algebraic structures which illuminate a wide variety of problems in completely unexpected ways. 

"He has made distinguished contributions to the theory of finite groups, to the theory of knots, to mathematical logic (both set theory and automata theory) and to the theory of games (as also to its practice)."

A the description of an biography on Conway by Siobhan Roberts describes him as "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."

Conway moved to Princeton in 1987 and "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," the description reads.

"He is a jet-setting ambassador-at-large for the beauties of all things mathematical."

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