Tom Kremer: Entrepreneur who popularised the Rubik’s Cube

Tom Kremer was a games designer, entrepreneur and publisher, best known for his discovery and popularisation of the Rubik’s Cube. As an octogenerian he had founded the publishing house, Notting Hill Editions, with the aim of reinvigorating the lost art of the essay.

Kremer was born in Transylvania in 1930, the son of an army officer. As a teenager he was imprisoned at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, finding freedom again on its liberation in April 1945. Travelling to Israel he joined the fight for the fledgling country’s independence, gained in 1948. Following studies in philosophy at Edinburgh University, where he met his wife-to-be, he carried out post-graduate research at the Sorbonne.

Kremer had been living in England and working in games design since the 1960s when he visited a trade show in Germany and saw the Rubik’s Cube for the first time in 1979. His son David recalled: “The cube wasn’t a big sensation at the Nuremberg toy fair: it was just a small thing in a backwater section at this huge event.” Kremer licensed the design to the Ideal Toy Company, which by 1983 had already sold some 300m of the fiendishly complicated 3D puzzle. The Cube’s worldwide success came, he said, because it “challenges you with simplicity. You can handle it, and yet it has enormous hidden complexity.” But it also became a victim of its own success, as his son explained: “Everybody had one. The cube went from world’s greatest fad to zero: there were thousands piled up in warehouses.”  Kremer later reacquired the license, allowing him to introduce it to new generations of puzzlers.

His book, The Missing Heart of Europe: Does Britain Hold the Key to the Future of the Continent?, was published in 2004. Here he argues that the British are inherently “eccentric” or divergent, whilst the French and Germans are “concentric”, tending towards a single centre of power. He opposed leaving the EU, advocating instead the development of a “new European people’s agenda” including a “reversal of the ongoing centrally directed process of standardisation”.

Kremer established Notting Hill Editions in 2011 to focus on a writing form he felt had been forgotten in recent times. “The essay is brief but it allows the writer to explore ideas deeply and personally”, he explained,  “Once I hit my 80s, I had the time and the opportunity to become a publisher, and so I decided to finally give my time to this long-held…

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