Opinion 99: We Need More People Like Aviezri Fraenkel, Who Taught me that Games are Math and Math is a Game

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: May 22, 2009

One of my great gurus, Aviezri Fraenkel is turning eighty years "old" today (according to the Hebrew Calendar). If you would think that Aviezri will rest on his laurels, and take it easy, you are wrong. He is as active and energetic as ever. Just go to his homepage and see for yourself lots of recent fascinating articles both on math and on divrei torah. Fraenkel's erudite Torah articles are computer-assisted, using his pioneering information retrieval data bases for storing sacred texts, that nowadays may seem commonplace, but were way ahead of their time, when he started them way back in 1963.

While I admire Aviezri's computerized Torah scholarship, I am not ח כ ם enough to appreciate it. What influenced me most was his teaching me how to play, and study, combinatorial games. While the book Winning Ways by Berlekamp, Conway, and Guy, is the bible of the subject, it is impossible to learn from it. It was through Aviezri's very lucid articles that taught me, and many other people, the rudiments of this attractive theory. Also his many technical contributions, by himself and with students and collaborators. This work is really gorgeous, playful yet deep.

And this explains the secret of the eternal youth of Aviezri, who refuses to slow down. He is always playing, and doing the stuff that he enjoys, and thereby gives joy to other people. Also his other work, in combinatorial number theory is very elegant, and he was also ahead of his time in another respect. He was one of the first bio-informaticians, who, in the mid-sixties, together with Joe Gillis z"l applied Eulerian paths to DNA.

Another secret for Aviezri's continued success is his beloved wife, Shaula. So if you want to keep doing math, and have fun doing it, way past your eighties, my advice is to pick fun subjects to work on, and have such a good wife.

! ל פ ח ו ת   ע ד   מ א ה   ו ע ש ר י ם  

Opinions of Doron Zeilberger