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David P. Robbins Prize

In 2005, the family of David P. Robbins gave the Mathematical Association of America funds sufficient to support a prize honoring the author or authors of a paper reporting on novel research in algebra, combinatorics, or discrete mathematics. The David P. Robbins Prize of $5000 is awarded every third year at a national meeting of the Association (JMM). Papers are judged on quality of research, clarity of exposition, and accessibility to undergraduates. The paper must have been published within six years of the presentation of the prize, and must be written in English. In the event of joint authors, the prize shall be divided equally. The recipient need not be a member of the Association.

See the biography of David Robbins below the list of winners.

List of Recipents


Robert D. Hough
Solution of the minimum modulus problem for covering systems
Annals of Mathematics, 181, no. 1 (2015), 361-382.


Frederick V. Henle and James M. Henle
Squaring the plane
The American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 115, January 2008, pp. 3-12


Mike Patterson, Yuval Peres, Mikkel Thorup, Peter Winkler, and Uri Zwick for both
The American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 116, January 2009, pp. 19-44
Maximum Overhang
The American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 116, November 2009, pp. 763-787


Neil J.A. Sloane
The on-line encyclopedia of integer sequences
Notices of the American Mathematical Society, vol. 50, 2003, pp. 912-915

Biography of David Robbins

David Robbins received a Ph.D. from MIT, and then taught for a total of 10 years at the Fieldston School in New York City, Phillips Exeter Academy, Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and Washington and Lee University in Virginia (1978-81). While at Phillips Exeter, he collaborated with Richard Brown, a colleague there, on a high school math text called Advanced Mathematics, an Introductory Course published in 1975 by Houghton Mifflin. The editorial adviser on the textbook was Andrew Gleason, who was David’s adviser when he was an undergraduate math major at Harvard. He then had a 24-year career on the research staff at the Institute for Defense Analyses—Center for Communications Research (IDA-CCR) in Princeton. He exhibited extraordinary creativity and brilliance in his classified work, while also finding time to make major contributions in combinatorics,notably to the proof of the MacDonald Conjecture and to the discovery of conjectural relationships between plane partitions and alternating sign matrices. Working on (and, especially, collaborating on) mathematics gave him enormous pleasure and fulfillment. His last mathematical efforts with his “pals” led to a generalization of Heron’s formula, answering a question that had intrigued Robbins since childhood. David lived in Princeton, where he settled in about 1981, and served for a number of years as a member and then president of the Princeton school board.