Opinion 154: HAPPY 100th Birthday, Richard Guy

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: Sept. 30, 2016

James Joseph Sylvester once said that number-theorists (and more generally, great mathematicians, with a few tragic exceptions) live much longer than the average person. This may be one reason, why Richard Guy [wiki], who is celebrating today his 100th birthday, is not only alive physically, but in the sense of Paul Erdos, i.e. alive mathematically. Richard also wrote classical books on ``open problems'' that inspired so much research, and formulated (and named!) "The Strong Law of Small Numbers" [see the recent article by Neil Sloane, Shalosh B. Ekhad and myself, dedicated to Richard, and a follow-up article that I just wrote today].

But a better reason for Richard Guy's longevity is that he does Combinatorial Games, and co-wrote, with Elwyn Berlekamp and John Conway the bible, ``Winning Ways'' and invented my favorite game Toads and Frogs, that inspired my former PhD student, Thotsaporn "Aek" Thanatipanonda to prove great results about this intriguing game.

But the best reason why Richard is so alive and well is that he is such a nice guy (pun intended). A few years ago, Richard received (along with quite a few other people, including myself) a "Happy Purim greeting" from a distinguished number theorist and combinatorial game theorist in Israel (and his wife) that read

On Fri, 26 Feb 2010, xxx wrote:
Dear friends,
Have a joyous Purim and may Amalek soon be destroyed. Hag Samea'ch and all the best. xxx

For non-Jews let me explain that Amalek is meant metonymically, to designate all the enemies of the Jewish people.

Richard Guy did "Reply All" and wrote:

From rkg@cpsc.ucalgary.ca Fri Feb 26 11:32:36 2010
Many thanks for including me in your good wishes, which are reciprocated. I wish peace (shalom,salaam) to everyone, and long for the day when we can all live peacefully and cooperatively together. I don't wish anything to be destroyed. If we can't love, then hopefully at least we can avoid hating. As Tom Lehrer said in his song ``National Brotherhood Week'', ``There are people who do not love their fellow men, and I hate such people.'' Best to all, R.

The traditional, generic greetings for a birthday are

ע ד   מ א ה   ו ע ש ר י ם

Meaning "May you live to 120", but in your case, I am wishing you at least one hundred more years.

Let me conclude by urging everyone to read the fascinating chapter 10 of the book Fascinating Mathematical People.

Happy Birthday Richard!

Opinions of Doron Zeilberger