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Mathematician Kenneth Hoffman Has Died at 77

October 6, 2008

Mathematician Kenneth Hoffman, who made significant contributions to U.S. education and science policy, died of a heart attack Sept. 29, 2008. He was 77.

Hoffman, who was a member of the MAA for 25 years, helped create the Mathematical Sciences Education Board and the National Science Education Standards project. In 1986, the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics awarded Hoffman its first Public Service Award "for his farsighted and effective initiation of the planning and the implementation of a national mathematical science policy."

In 1990, Hoffman received the American Mathematical Society's first Award for Distinguished Public Service. The citation noted, "Through his efforts, the awareness of the importance of mathematics and the support of mathematical research has been significantly heightened in the general public, among makers of science policy in the government, and among university administrators."

Born in Long Beach, Calif., Hoffman earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Occidental College in 1952. He received an MA and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956. In 1961, Hoffman wrote an undergraduate linear algebra textbook, co-authored with Ray Kunze, that became a classic in the field. From 1969 to 1971, Hoffman directed the Commission on MIT Education, appointed by MIT President Howard Johnson to conduct a comprehensive review of education, research, and governance at the university. He led MIT's mathematics department from 1971 to 1979.

Hoffman's area of research specialization was functional analysis. Along with Richard Arens and Isadore Singer, he made fundamental contributions to both complex and abstract analysis. Among them was a paper (with Singer) that answered questions on commutative Banach algebras raised by I. M. Gelfand.

Hoffman directed the David Committee on federal support of mathematical research from 1981 to 1984. From 1984-89, he ran the math community's Office of Governmental and Public Affairs, in Washington, D.C.

Hoffman is survived by his wife, Alicia Hoffman; former wife Patti Hoffman; a son, Robert Hoffman; two daughters, Laura Lasa and Donna Ullah; a sister, Barbara Hollis; and 14 grandchildren.

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oct. 1, 2008.

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Monday, October 6, 2008