I grew up in Brazil and did my undergraduate work there in the mid-to-late 1970s. At that point, there was a small but active mathematical community spread out through several Brazilian universities. It was still a young community: the first national meetings of research-minded mathematicians happened in the 1950s, and our professional society (Sociedade Brasileira de Matemática, SBM) was founded in 1969. There was an important research center in Rio de Janeiro, known as IMPA (Instituto de Matemátical Pura e Aplicada), plus several universities with PhD programs.
In such a situation, the great dream is to achieve worldwide recognition, to produce mathematics that makes a real impact on the subject. Djairo Guedes de Figueiredo was one of the first to achieve this, and he did it without taking the easy route of moving to the “first world,” though of course he visited the US and Europe many times. When I was young, his was a name to conjure with: a successful and important Brazilian mathematician, respected by everyone. I don’t think I ever met him, probably because he was at a different university and worked on PDEs and related subjects; my interests were already slanted towards number theory, algebra, and (only slightly at that point) the history of mathematics.
This collection of Djairo’s Selected Papers is the first in a series jointly presented by SBM, IMPA, and Springer, entitled Selected Works of Outstanding Brazilian Mathematicians. It marks a moment of greater maturity for the Brazilian mathematics community: we are now ready (and able!) to celebrate the work of significant Brazilian mathematicians. The book is beautifully made, with such touches as green and yellow marker ribbons. (Green and yellow are the main colors of the Brazilian flag.) The book opens with a (very) short autobiographical piece by Figueiredo, offers a generous selection of his papers, and concludes with a full list of publications and a list of PhD students.
Fernando Q. Gouvêa wimped out and moved to the United States, where he is now Carter Professor of Mathematics at Colby College in Waterville, ME.