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Who's That Mathematician? Images from the Paul R. Halmos Photograph Collection

Janet Beery (University of Redlands) and Carol Mead (Archives of American Mathematics, University of Texas, Austin)

For more information about Paul R. Halmos (1916-2006) and about the Paul R. Halmos Photograph Collection, please see the introduction to this article on page 1.  A new page featuring six photographs will be posted at the start of each week during 2012.


Abram BesicovitchAbram Besicovitch (1891-1970) is pictured in his office at Trinity College, Cambridge, England (or possibilty his home in Cambridge) on June 8, 1968.  A student of A. A. Markov at the University of St. Petersburg, where he earned his degree in 1912, Besicovitch taught in Russia during the revolutionary years.  He finally escaped to Copenhagen in 1924, eventually settling in England, where he was a functional analyst at Cambridge from 1927 onward.  Besicovitch was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1954-55 and also visited various U.S. universities from 1958 to 1966.  It is possible that his visits included the Universities of Chicago and/or Michigan, where Paul Halmos taught during this period (he moved from Chicago to Michigan in 1961), and that the two became acquainted then.  They certainly would have been interested in one another's mathematical work.


R. H. BingHalmos photographed R. H. Bing (1914-1986) in Miami, Florida on April 3, 1966.  Bing was a Texas high school teacher turned R. L. Moore-trained topologist.  He spent most of his career at the Universities of Wisconsin and Texas.  He and Halmos may have met at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where both were members during 1957-58.  Bing served as president of the MAA in 1963-64 and as president of the AMS in 1977-78. 

R. H. Bing and Burton W. Jones


Although Halmos was still a professor at the University of Michigan in 1966, when the photo above was taken (and Bing at the University of Wisconsin), Halmos stamped the back of the photo with his own Miami address.  Was Halmos visiting a university in Miami that semester or did he maintain a vacation home there?  Two years later, the sun-seeking Halmos would accept a position at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.  Seven years later, in 1973, Bing would return to the University of Texas, Austin, where he had earned his Ph.D. in 1945.

The photograph above shows R. H. Bing (left) with Burton W. Jones (1902-1983) in 1981.  Jones earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1928, working under Leonard Eugene Dickson.  He eventually became a professor at Cornell University, where one of his Ph.D. students was representation theorist Irving Reiner, and then at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  Jones published number theory and abstract algebra textbooks and one popular book on mathematics, Elementary Concepts of Mathematics.  The MAA Rocky Mountain Section makes its annual Burton W. Jones Distinguished Teaching Award to honor Jones' commitment to and skill in teaching mathematics.


Halmos photographed the American mathematician Garrett Birkhoff (1911-1996) and an Iranian mathematician identified as "Ghaffari" at the Third Iranian Mathematical Conference in Tehran, Iran, in 1972.  The two women in the photo are identified only as "Mrs. Ghaffari" and "R. Birkhoff."  Could the man on the right be mathematical physicist Abolghassem Ghaffari, who lived and worked mainly in the U.S. from 1956 onward, most notably for NASA, and who celebrated his 104th birthday on June 15, 2011?  We would love to hear from friends and acquaintances of the Ghaffaris, and from the Ghaffaris themselves.

Birkhoff and Ghaffari

Group and lattice theorist Garrett Birkhoff advised over 50 Ph.D. students during a long career at Harvard, but he may be best remembered for his abstract algebra text, A Survey of Modern Algebra, more commonly known by its authors surnames, "MacLane and Birkhoff."  Halmos and Birkhoff probably would have first met when both were at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1939-40.


Errett BishopHalmos photographed Errett Bishop (1928-1983) at Bishop's home in La Jolla, California, in February 1983. A Ph.D. student of Halmos at the University of Chicago (1955), Bishop spent his career at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Diego (in La Jolla).  He made important contributions to a number of areas of analysis, including its foundations.


Max Black

Mathematical philosopher Max Black (1909-1988) at the AMS-MAA Joint Summer Meeting in Ithaca, New York, on Aug. 31, 1965.  Black was at that time a philosophy professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, where he spent most of his career.  Did he attend the mathematics meeting because it was in a very convenient location for him, or did he regularly attend mathematics meetings?


For an introduction to this article and to the Paul R. Halmos Photograph Collection, please see page 1. Watch for a new page featuring six new photographs each week during 2012.



Janet Beery (University of Redlands) and Carol Mead (Archives of American Mathematics, University of Texas, Austin), "Who's That Mathematician? Images from the Paul R. Halmos Photograph Collection," Convergence (April 2012)