[Marxism] Irving Adler, Author of Science and Math Books for the Young, Dies at 99

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Fri Sep 28 08:49:53 MDT 2012

I read many of this guy's books when I was a kid.

Jim Farmelant


Irving Adler, Author of Science and Math Books for the Young, Dies at 99
Irving Adler, who wrote dozens of books on the elegant essentials of science and math, almost all of them directed toward capturing the curiosity of children and young adults, died on Saturday in Bennington, Vt. He was 99.

The cause was a stroke, his daughter, Peggy Adler, said.

Mr. Adler joined the American Communist Party in 1935. In 1952, at the height of the Red Scare, when he was chairman of the math department at Straubenmuller Textile High School on West 18th Street in Manhattan, he was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee investigating Communist influence in schools. Invoking his Fifth Amendment rights, he refused to answer questions.

Mr. Adler became one of 378 New York City teachers ousted under New York State’s Feinberg Law, which made it illegal for teachers to advocate for the overthrow of the government by force.

The United States Supreme Court upheld his dismissal in 1952 (Adler v. Board of Education), but declared the Feinberg Law unconstitutional 15 years later.

The first sentences in Mr. Adler’s first book, “The Secret of Light” (1952), seem like a mission statement: “This is a book about light. It will tell you interesting facts about many simple, ordinary things, like a glass of water, mirrors, soap bubbles and hot pavement. At the same time, it is a story of mystery and adventure. It will unlock the passageway that leads to the center of the atom, exposing its innermost workings.”

“Part of this story sounds like a fairy tale,” it continues. “But the wonders it describes are all true. This does not make the story any less exciting, for there is no adventure more thrilling than discovering the real wonders of the world we live in.”

The wonders that Mr. Adler would illuminate in his 87 books — many written with and illustrated by his late wife Ruth Relis Adler — are evident in their titles. Among them are “How Life Began” (1957), “The Stars: Steppingstones Into Space” (1958), “Thinking Machines” (1961) and “Inside the Nucleus” (1963).

In “Why? A Book of Reasons” (1961), Mr. Adler answers simple questions like “Why don’t the fish freeze when the pond freezes?” and “Why can a fly walk on the ceiling?”

Mr. Adler’s books have sold over 4 million copies and been translated into 19 languages. He received awards from the Children’s Book Council and the National Science Teachers Association.

Irving Adler was born in Manhattan on April 27, 1913, one of five children of Marcus and Celia Kress Adler, immigrants from what is now Poland. His father first worked as a house painter and later sold ice, coal, wood, seltzer and beer.

Irving was an outstanding student, entering Townsend Harris High School at 11 and graduating from City College with a degree in mathematics at 18. Soon after “he was teaching high school students that were older then him,” his daughter said.

Mr. Adler married Ruth Relis in 1935; she died in 1968. His second wife, Joyce Lifshutz Sparer died in 1999. Besides his daughter, he is survived by his son, Stephen; a stepdaughter, Laura Wallace; 9 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren.

Not all of Mr. Adler’s writing was directed at the young. In “Mathematics and Mental Growth” (1968), he reprised essays he had written for professional journals in support of the “new math” — the movement to replace repetitive teaching of the subject (through memorization of times tables, for instance) with the clear delineation of mathematical concepts.

In reviewing the book for The New York Times, the author Isaac Asimov wrote, “The ‘old math’ was too often an exercise in rote learning that forever embittered a child against education.”

“We race toward catastrophe by facing the nuclear age with our Tom Sawyerish idyll of education,” Mr. Asimov added. “Adler’s book is a cry for something better.”

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