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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.


Halmos photographed Paul Erdös (1913-1996) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in September of 1963. Halmos was a faculty member at the University of Michigan at the time. Erdös was well known for traveling all over the world posing and solving problems, mainly in number theory, combinatorics, and graph theory, with many and varied collaborators. According to one source, Erdös had been barred from the U.S. in 1954 (for showing too much enthusiasm for his homeland, Hungary, and for Karl Marx when interviewed by U.S. immigration agents) and was not allowed to return until November of 1963 (MacTutor Archive).

80 Paul Erdös and his mother, who surely had a first name, on July 12, 1968, in Budapest, Hungary, where she lived and Paul was born. Erdös left Hungary just after earning his doctorate there in 1934 to become a post-doc at the University of Manchester in England. He was able to visit his family, who were Jewish, in Hungary until 1938 but had no news of them from 1941 to 1945. In 1945 he learned that his father had died in 1942 but that his mother had survived, and he finally was able to visit her in 1948 (MacTutor Archive). Erdös appears in another photograph on page 3 of this collection.


81 Ky Fan (1914-2010) was photographed by Halmos in 1985. Born in China, Fan studied mathematics at Peking University and then at the University of Paris, receiving his doctorate under Maurice Fréchet in 1941. He spent most of his career at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He contributed to many areas of analysis and topology and advised 21 Ph.D. students (UCSB). Fan and Halmos may have first met at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where Fan was a member from 1945 to 1947 and Halmos was a short-term visitor during 1945-46 (IAS).


82 Halmos photographed two probabilists, Joseph Doob (1910-2004) (in background) and William Feller (1906-1970), in September of 1959, perhaps in Chicago. Born in Croatia, Feller studied mathematics at the University of Zagreb and then at Göttingen University in Germany, where he earned the Ph.D. in 1926 under David Hilbert and Richard Courant. He spent most of his career, from 1950 onward, at Princeton University, but was able to work with probabilists Harald Cramér at the University of Stockholm during the 1930s and Mark Kac at Cornell University from 1945 to 1950. During the years 1939-1945, Feller was at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he helped Otto Neugebauer found Mathematical Reviews (MacTutor Archive). Doob was Ph.D. advisor to Halmos and appears in photographs on page 1, page 2, and page 12 of this collection.


83 Moshé Flato (1937-1998) was photographed by Halmos in March of 1970 at Yeshiva University in New York. Flato was born in Tel Aviv and studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem before moving to Paris in the early 1960s, earning his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1965, and becoming a French citizen in 1967. A mathematical physicist, he was Professor of Mathematics at the University of Dijon from 1968 onward (MacTutor Archive).


84 Halmos photographed Béla Szökefalvi-Nagy (1913-1998) and Ciprian Foias at the Wabash Seminar in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1983. Szökefalvi-Nagy and Foias were longtime collaborators and perhaps are best known as co-authors of the book, Harmonic analysis of operators on Hilbert space, first published in French in 1967 and in English in 1970 (MathSciNet). Foias is Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Texas A & M University in College Station, specializing in PDEs and operator theory (Texas A&M). He also is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University in Bloomington (Indiana University), where Halmos was a faculty member from 1969 to 1985. Foias joined the Indiana University mathematics faculty in 1979 after earning the Ph.D. at the Institute of Mathematics of the Romanian Academy in 1962 and serving as a mathematics professor at the University of Bucharest for 12 years. (Source: "1995 Norbert Wiener Prize in Applied Mathematics," AMS Notices 42:4, April 1995, pp. 457-458.)

Szökefalvi-Nagy also appears in a photograph on page 9 of this collection. According to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (3rd edition, 1979), Szökefalvi-Nagy "graduated from the University of Szeged, Hungary, in 1936 and became a professor there in 1948. ... [His] principal works deal with the approximation of functions and with functional analysis---in particular, the expansion of operators in [Hilbert] space" (The Free Dictionary).


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.

Regarding sources for this page:  Information for which a source is not given either appeared on the reverse side of the photograph or was obtained from various sources during 2011-12 by archivist Carol Mead of the Archives for American Mathematics, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin.

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)