Thursday, March 7, 2013

Allan Calhamer, a Harvard-educated...

...mailman who invented the board game Diplomacy, died at age 81. From his obit in the New York Times (my emphasis):

At Harvard, from which he graduated cum laude in 1953, the young Mr. Calhamer studied European history with Sidney Bradshaw Fay. Reading Professor Fay’s seminal 1928 book, “The Origins of the World War,” about back-room intrigue among the Great Powers, he thought, as he later recalled, “What a board game that would make!”

Mr. Calhamer developed his game, originally called Realpolitik, in 1954, while he was enrolled at Harvard Law School. Law students, he found, adored it, as it enfranchised aggression, and it was refined over many late-night sessions in his room.  

Disinclined to pursue a cutthroat career, Mr. Calhamer left law school before graduating. He lived for a time at Walden Pond in homage to his idol, Henry David Thoreau; he later worked briefly as a foreign service officer in Africa and a park ranger at the Statue of Liberty. 

Mr. Calhamer remained deeply, if quietly, proud of Diplomacy, and though the royalties did not make him rich, they did once let him buy a Mercury Monarch. His other board games, never brought to market, include one in which, as Tatiana Calhamer described it on Monday, players move through dimensions of the space-time continuum.

For 21 years, until his retirement in the early 1990s, Mr. Calhamer delivered the mail in La Grange Park. He took pleasure, his family told The Chicago Sun-Times this week, in factoring into primes the license-plate numbers of cars on his route.

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