Raymond Smullyan has had a remarkably diverse sequence of careers. Fellow polymath Martin Gardner, former editor of Scientific American, has aptly described him as a “unique set of personalities that includes a philosopher, logician, mathematician, musician, writer and maker of marvelous puzzles.” Born in 1919 in Far Rockaway, New York, Raymond’s early music studies were with Victor Huttenlocher, piano and Raymond Huttenlocher, violin. After winning the gold medal for the piano in 1931 competition of the New York Music Week Association, he decided to make the piano his principal instrument. His main teachers have been Grace Hofheimer of New York City, Bernhard Abramowitsch at San Francisco, and Gunnar Johansen at the University of Wisconsin. He has also had coaching from Artur Schnabel, Mieczyslaw Horszowsky, Nadia Boulanger, Greta Sultan, Alicia de Larrocha, and Richard Goode. At Wisconsin, he publicly performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #1, and in those days, he was an accompanist to the cellist Ernst Friedlander of the Pro Art Quartet.
His first teaching position was at Roosevelt College in Chicago, where he taught piano. At about that time he unfortunately developed tendonitis in his right arm forcing him to abandon piano performances as his primary career. As a result of this he turned his attention to mathematics which he equally loved. He had learned most of this on his own, with very little formal education at the time. He then took a few advance courses at the University of Chicago, and supported himself at the time as a professional magician! Curiously enough, before he had a college degree, or even a high school diploma, he received an appointment as a mathematics instructor at Dartmouth College on the basis of some brilliant papers he had written on mathematical logic.
After teaching at Dartmouth College for two years, the University of Chicago gave him a Bachelor of Arts degree, based partly on courses he had never taken, but had successfully taught. He then went to Princeton University for his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1959. He is now internationally known as a mathematical logician, having published six books and over forty research papers in the field. He is equally well known world-wide as a writer, having authored over twenty books, many of which have been translated into seventeen languages. His writings cover an amazing variety of subjects: recreational logic puzzles designed to introduce the general reader to deep results in mathematics; retrograde chess problems encapsulated into Sherlock Holmes and Arabian Nights stories; stereo photography; Chinese Taoism; the psychology of religious and mystical consciousness; philosophical fantasies; and essays on various aspects of life. His latest book, Some Interesting Memories (Published by Thinkers’ Press, Davenport, Iowa) contains a delightfully charming account of some of his more memorable adventures and is replete with jokes, anecdotes, puzzles, and paradoxes.
Now, a retired, distinguished professor of philosophy from Indiana University, he resides in the beautiful upper region of the Catskill Mountains and has returned to music as one of his principal activities.
You can see Raymond's videos by visiting his YouTube channel:
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