John Boardman (physicist)

Jack Melton Boardman, commonly known as John Boardman, (born September 8, 1932) is an American physicist. He is a former professor of physics at Brooklyn College; a noted science fiction fan, author and fanzine publisher; and a gaming authority.

John Boardman
Jack Melton Boardman

(1932-09-08) September 8, 1932 (age 88)
Alma materUniversity of Chicago
Syracuse University
Known forscience fiction, board games
Spouse(s)Perdita Lilly Nelson Girsdansky
Scientific career
ThesisQuantization of the general theory of relativity. (1962)
Doctoral advisorPeter Bergmann[1]

Academic careerEdit

Boardman earned his B.A. at the University of Chicago in 1952 and his M.S. from Iowa State University in 1956. He then attended Florida State University to begin his doctoral studies. However, he was expelled in 1957 due to his involvement with the Inter-Civic Council and more specifically for inviting three black Florida A&M exchange students to a Christmas party.[2][3]

He ultimately received his Ph.D. in physics at Syracuse University in 1962; his doctoral thesis was titled Quantization of the General Theory of Relativity.[4] His publications include "Spherical Gravitational Waves" (a collaboration with Peter Bergmann, former research assistant to Albert Einstein),[5] "Contributions to the Quantization Problem in General Relativity",[6] and "The Normal Modes Of A Hanging Oscillator Of Order N".[7]

Boardman and gamingEdit

Boardman was one of the early entrepreneurs in play-by-mail (PBM) for the Diplomacy game; he charged players a small fee to copy their turns and send them to the other players in the game.[8] He is one of the most noted figures in the game of Diplomacy, having established the original play-by-mail setup in 1961, and also the system of numbering each game for statistical purposes. These numbers, known as Boardman Numbers, include the year and a letter indicating sequence.[9] For instance, 2004A was the first game started in 2004.[10][11][12]

Boardman started the first successful postal Diplomacy zine, Graustark, in 1963 as an offshoot from his science fiction fanzine Knowable.[9] Soon Graustark grew from just a gameturn-report newsletter to a hobby activity similar to science fiction fanzines.[13] Boardman continued to produce Graustark for almost 50 years, publishing issue 793 in June 2013.[14]

Science fictionEdit

Boardman has long been an active member of science fiction fandom, famed for his strong political opinions; and has been the subject of at least two filksongs: "To John Boardman in Brooklyn"[15] and "All Hail to the Fan John B." In addition to Knowable, his science fiction fanzines have included Dagon and Anakreon. He has also written at least two published fantasy stories, "Colon the Conqueror" (a Conan the Barbarian parody), published in the May 1958 issue of Fantastic Universe; and "The Testament of Snefru", published in the 1980 anthology The Spell of Conan (L. Sprague de Camp, ed.).

"The Asteroid Light"Edit

Boardman's 1961 filksong, "The Asteroid Light" (to the tune of the sea chanty "Eddystone Light") has been reprinted repeatedly, in venues ranging from science fiction anthologies (the 1972 anthology Futures Conditional) to Sing Out magazine (V. 9, #1, p. 24) to collections of protest music (Glazer, Tom. Songs of Peace, Freedom and Protest. New York: David McKay, 1970). It has also frequently been discussed in papers on filk music.[16][17][18]

He also wrote a regular column, "Science for Science Fiction", for the first twelve issues of Ares magazine.

Personal lifeEdit

After having been a resident of the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York for almost half a century (his house was used as a set in Spike Lee's Malcolm X), Boardman now lives in Frederick, Maryland. Boardman's wife, Perdita, who was previously married to Ray Nelson, died on November 26, 2017 after a long battle with dementia.


  1. ^ Peter Gabriel Bergmann at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ "The Ride to Equality: Fifty years after the Tallahassee bus boycott Tallahassee Democrat May 21, 2006 (special section)
  3. ^ Photograph: "Civil rights activists - Tallahassee, Florida" (195?) Image #RC12794 in series: "Reference collection", at Florida Memory, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Division of Library and Information Services, Florida Department of State
  4. ^ Bibliographic Citation: "QUANTIZATION OF THE GENERAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY" Energy Citations Database accessed March 23 2011
  5. ^ Boardman, John and Bergmann, Peter G. "Spherical Gravitational Waves" Physical Review Volume 115, Issue 5 (September 1959); pp. 1318–1324
  6. ^ Boardman, John. "Contributions to the Quantization Problem in General Relativity" Journal of Mathematical Physics Vol. 6, Issue 11 (1965), pp. 1696 et seq. Archived 2012-03-20 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Boardman, John. ""The Normal Modes Of A Hanging Oscillator Of Order N" Fibonacci Quarterly Vol. 17, Issue 1 (February 1979); pp. 37-39
  8. ^ Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  9. ^ a b Reynolds, Harold (2008-12-02). "B Entries". Diplomacy A-Z, Version 6.0. Retrieved 2008-12-22. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Walker, Rod (1997) [1975-03-13]. "A Short History of the Boardman Numbers". Diplomatic Pouch. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  11. ^ Walker, Rod (1975-03-13) [1972]. "A Short History of the Boardman Numbers" (PDF). Liaisons Dangereuses. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  12. ^ "Boardman and Miller Numbers". Diplomatic Pouch. 1997. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  13. ^ Meinel, Jim. Encyclopedia of Postal Diplomacy Zines. Great White North Productions, Alaska, USA, 1992.
  14. ^ Kent, Douglas (2014-06-02). "Graustark Zine Archive". The Whining Kent Pigs. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  15. ^ Index to the NESFA Hymnal
  16. ^ Fowke, Edith. "Filksongs as Modern Folk Songs". Canadian Folklore Canadien (Vol. 7; 1985)
  17. ^ Titus, A. Costandina & Simich, Jerry L. "From 'atomic bomb baby' to 'nuclear funeral': Atomic music comes of age, 1945-1990" Popular Music and Society, Vol. 14, #4 (Winter 1990), pp. 11-37
  18. ^ Simpson, Claude M., Jr. "Review: [untitled]" Western Folklore, Vol. 21, #4 (Oct., 1962), pp. 290-291