I haven’t read a biography quite like Siobhan Roberts’ biography of John Conway: it feels more like meeting and entering a collaboration with Conway than a biographical account of his life and work. But the experience of being swept along on a wild ride seems appropriate, and Roberts creates a very unusual and human portrayal of one of the great mathematicians alive today.
Conway has been a hero of mine for a long time. I’d (obviously) learned about his work in group theory at university, and I have to admit to being a bit star struck when I first interviewed him back in 2002. It was just as exciting to interview him again, nearly a decade later, in 2011. And in both cases, although I say I interviewed Conway, in reality it was more like sitting back, holding on tight, and enjoying the ride. He spoke non-stop in a great wave of mathematics and philosophy and anecdotes, until he was finished, and he went, and I was left with reams of notes and hours of recordings to try to work into a finished piece. … (+Plus Magazine review by Rachel Thomas)