News came this morning that John Conway has died.
I hardly know where to begin paying tribute to such a polymath. But perhaps I will just tell a story which shows several things about him, not least his breadth of interest and love of fun.
This happened at a conference somewhere in North America. I was chairing the session at which he was to speak. When I got up to introduce him, his title had not yet been announced, and the stage had a blackboard on an easel. I said something like “The next speaker is John Conway, and no doubt he is going to tell us what he will talk about.” John came onto the stage, went over to the easel, picked up the blackboard, and turned it over. On the other side were revealed five titles of talks. He said, “I am going to give one of these talks. I will count down to zero; you are to shout as loudly as you can the number of the talk you want to hear, and the chairman will judge which number is most popular.”
So he did, and so I got to hear the talk I wanted to hear.
RIP John, the world is a poorer place without you.