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John Conway

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Mathematician

Conway is legendary in computer science if for only creating the first artificial life simulation around 1970 that he called the 'Game of Life'. Though it isn't technically a game, it simulates the 'birth' and 'death' of organisms according to a set of simple rules.

He was profiled in a 1994 article in The Sciences by Charles Seife where he reflects on the nature of discovery:

"Conway propped up the pillow behind his head and grinned. 'I like showing off. When I make a new discovery, and I really like telling people about it. I guess I'm not so much a mathematician as a teacher. In America, kids aren't supposed to like mathematics. It's so sad.' Conway sat up suddenly. 'Most people think that mathematics is cold. But it's not at all! For me, the whole damn thing is sensual and exciting. I like what it looks like, and I get a hell of a lot more pleasure out of math than most people do out of art!' He relaxed slightly, and he lowered his voice. 'I feel like an artist. I like beautiful things - they're there already; man doesn't have to create it. I don't believe in God, but I believe that nature is unbelievably subtle and clever. In physics, for instance, the real answer to a problem is usually so subtle and surprising that it wasn't even considered in the first place. That the speed of light is a constant - impossible! Nobody even thought about it. And quantum mechanics is even worse, but it's so beautiful, and it works!'"