English mathematician John Horton Conway dies after contracting COVID-19

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

English mathematician John Horton Conway died on Saturday at his New Jersey home, reportedly due to COVID-19 complications. Princeton University neuroscience professor Sam Wang stated that Conway developed a fever on Wednesday before his death on Saturday. Conway was 82 years old.

File photo of John Conway (Image: Thane Plambeck)

Conway is known for devising a cellular automaton known as Conway's Game of Life. Cellular automata are discrete models consisting of a grid of cells. He also developed the chained arrow notation for expressing very large integers. Conway is also known for formulating the angel problem of combinatorial game theory, and his work involving surreal numbers.

For his mathematical contributions, Conway was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1981 and admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992. His other accolades include the Berwick Prize in 1971, the George Pólya Prize in 1987, the Nemmers Prize in Mathematics in 1998 and the Leroy P. Steele Prize in 2000.

Conway's death was mourned by various members of the academic community. Sam Wang called Conway "[a]n incomparable mathematician, a pleasant neighbor, and an excellent coffee acquaintance." US theoretical astrophysicist David Spergel tweeted that Conway "was a warm and gentle soul." Independent filmmaker and journalist Brady Haran, known for his educational YouTube channel Numberphile, posted a podcast dedicated to Conway.