OBITUARIES

Click on a name in the alphabetical list below.

Baker, John
Gelbtuch, Adam
Ghaffari, Abolghassem
Green, James Alexander (Sandy)

Halberstam, Heini
Herszberg, Jerzy
Jones, Douglas
MacBeath, Murray
Norman, Christopher
Orchel, Andrzej

Earlier death notices can be found in the Published Issues.

 


 

 

MURRAY MACBEATH

Published online 1 July 2014

murray macbeathProfessor AM Macbeath, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 16th January 1947, died on 26 May 2014, aged 90.
 
Bill Harvey writes: Born in Glasgow, his early education was at Royal Belfast Academy and Queen's College, Belfast. On moving to Clare College, Cambridge in 1943, his precocious mathematical abilities were recognised and he joined the code-breakers at Bletchley Park (1943-45). After the war, a glittering educational career followed: wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos, MA (Cantab) 1948 and Smith's Prize in 1949.   Two years as a Commonwealth fellow in Princeton led to a PhD under Emil Artin, after which a return to Cambridge, marriage to his wife Julie (who survives him) and a post as lecturer at Keele University in 1951. He was appointed professor at Queen's College, Dundee in 1953, and his research broadened from geometry of numbers and convex measure theory into low-dimensional topology.  Discrete groups and transformation group theory formed the central core of his work, in particular Fuchsian and non-Euclidean crystallographic groups and finite group actions on Riemann surfaces, where he reactivated and modernised an area largely untouched since the days of Hurwitz and Klein.  He moved in 1962 to the Mason Chair at the University of Birmingham and a taxing life as HOD from 1962 until 1979, when he migrated back to the USA to take up the chair at the University of Pittsburgh vacated by his friend Joseph Lehner.  On retirement, a conference was held in his honour at Birmingham in 1992, funded by the Society. He maintained over four decades an international reputation in discrete groups and Riemann surfaces, writing seminal papers on geometry of numbers, measure theory, discrete groups and Teichmüller theory, finite group actions on surfaces and algebraic curves, over 55 publications in all, with a final contribution in 1998 to an MSRI volume The Eightfold Way on Klein's quartic curve.

Murray had a broad circle of friends within the international community, ensuring a healthy flow of postdoctoral visitors to Birmingham and lively seminars. The style and quality of his teaching enriched a generation of students at all levels, including the fortunate few postgrads (12 or more) directly supervised by him. His lectures Discontinuous groups and birational transformations from the 1961 Dundee Conference were very influential in fostering interest in finite group actions on surfaces, group presentations and the topology of 2- and 3-dimensional orbifolds.  He spent several periods in visiting positions including Caltech and Pittsburgh, St. Andrews and Warwick.  He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and his work.

As a  postgraduate student of Murray Macbeath in Birmingham from 1962, I was privileged to gain the best possible introduction to research, with fascinating new ideas at play fostered by a friendly and encouraging supervisor.  His complete honesty, lack of pretension and unfailing good humour made the transition from undergraduate to research student almost painless.  His own innovative work on presentations of discrete groups blended naturally with the development of quasiconformal mappings and moduli of Riemann surfaces at that time by Lars Ahlfors, Lipman Bers and Harry Rauch; these ideas have proved inspirational to a host of researchers around the world.
 
Murray had a gift for friendship which enriched life among us graduate students and this together with his academic reputation drew many important visitors to the Birmingham department.  He had a quietly mischievous sense of humour and a quick line of wit and aphorism delivered in his very own soft highland brogue. This never deserted him and throughout his retirement he and Julie continued to make new friends: his funeral was a standing-room-only affair.  For me, with his high intelligence, kindness and innate modesty, he has been a model as mathematician and human being. An independent observer might note the lack of any formal recognition for his achievements from the British science establishment.  He would smile and refer us to the bard:

For a'  that, and a'  that
    Our toils obscure and a'  that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
    The man's the gowd  for a'  that.

I can see him still, at a workshop on Dessins d'enfant in Southampton in Millennium year, sitting happily with his old friend Robert Rankin and enjoying the fare: the talks, the chat and the conviviality.  RIP,  Murray.

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ADAM GELBTUCH

Published online 16 May 2014

Adam GelbtuchAdam Gelbtuch, Chairman of Pion Ltd Publishers, died on 3 April 2014 aged 93.

Robert Welham writes: He was born in 1921 in Krakow.  He came to the UK in 1938 to study aeronautical engineering at Imperial College London.  Returning to visit his parents in the summer of 1939 he was caught up in the invasion of his country and was captured by the Russians and held in harsh conditions of captivity in a labour camp, where his father died.   In 1941 those conditions eased but ill-health prevented his being drafted into the Polish armies then being formed.  He found himself in Tashkent where evacuated Russians and internees had formed a university.  He studied there under the famous Academician Abram Ioffe but also found time to set up a successful ice-cream business. That combination of science and commerce was to be the pattern of his life.

Adam returned to the UK in 1947.  His contacts and language skills led him into the translation of accounts of Russian science and technology and with John Ashby, a biochemist, he formed Pion to publish translations of Russian-language journals in conjunction with the British Library (which ran a government-sponsored programme for that purpose) and to publish academic journals and books on its own account.

Pion was involved in the publishing of a translation of Russian Mathematical Surveys for the LMS and the British Library from the late 1970s.  From 1990 onwards, Adam orchestrated discussions, in collaboration with the LMS and the Department of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, that led to the translations of Sbornik: Mathematics and Izvestiya: Mathematics leaving the American Mathematical Society and being published in 1995 in conjunction with the LMS by Turpion, the company he had earlier formed jointly with the Royal Society of Chemistry.  Such was the success of the move that Russian Mathematical Surveys followed in 1998.

Many, both in the UK and Russia, contributed to these projects but Adam’s role was both central and essential.  Honest, direct, and always even-tempered he dissolved difficulties and united all parties in the atmosphere of mutual trust in which the publication of these journals continues.

He lived his private life to the full.  He shared an enjoyment of good food and wine, music and the arts with his wife, Helen - herself a professional singer.  He continued with his annual skiing holiday until his late eighties and travelled widely for business and pleasure.

He continued daily attendance at his office into his 92nd year.  He leaves Helen, whom he married in 1949, their daughter, Maya, a university lecturer in Japan a specialist in the social and cultural anthropology of that country, and a grandson, Misha, as well as many friends around the world.

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JAMES ALEXANDER (SANDY) GREEN

Published online 12 May 2014

Professor James Alexander Green, FRS, FRSE, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 19 June 1958, died on 7 April 2014, aged 88.

Karin Erdmann writes: J.A. Green, known as Sandy, did his undergraduate studies at St Andrews, but interrupted in the middle by work at Bletchley Park. Sandy moved to Cambridge for his graduate work, supervised by D.E. Littlewood, Philip Hall and David Rees.  From 1950 to 1963 he held a teaching position at the University of Manchester, and then a readership at the University of Sussex for two years. From 1965 until his retirement in 1991 he was a Professor at the University of Warwick. After that he moved to Oxford, and became an associate member of the Department, and had MA status in the University. Until last summer he regularly came to the Department for seminars, or to discuss mathematics. Throughout his career, Sandy had a lot of serious health problems, but thanks to the care and support of his wife, Margaret, and his family, Sandy was able to continue his research.

In his PhD thesis, Sandy worked on semigroups. He introduced fundamental relations, now known as ‘Green’s relations’. Soon after moving to Manchester, Sandy got interested in representation theory. In 1955 he published his paper The characters of finite general linear groups.  This was completely unexpected in view of the very incomplete information available prior to his work   Sandy then turned to representations of finite groups over fields of prime characteristic and proved many important results.  In particular he introduced new invariants, vertices and sources of indecomposable representations, and developed a fundamental correspondence for representations of a group with representations of its p-local subgroups. This ‘Green correspondence’ has become one of the most important tools of the area.
 
The monograph Polynomial Representations GLn, published in 1980, introduces what Sandy called ‘Schur algebras’.  Around this time highest weight modules became objects of central interest in algebraic Lie theory. These can be studied via finite dimensional algebras; and Schur algebras are prototypes for such algebras.
 
More recently, Sandy was involved in the development of the classical Hall algebra theory. In his 1995 paper, he constructed a comultiplication on Hall algebra of a finite directed quiver, and showed that this can be used to show that the Hall algebra is isomorphic to the positive part of the corresponding quantum group.

Sandy was awarded the Senior Berwick Prize in 1984 and the De Morgan Medal in 2001. He was elected to a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1968, and to a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1987.

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JERZY HERSZBERG

Published online 23 April 2014

Dr Jerzy Herszberg, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 20 December 1951, died on 5 February 2014, aged 84.

Lilian Button writes: Jerzy Herszberg was born in Poznan and lived there until 1939 when all Jews were sent to the Łódź ghetto.  From there they went to concentration camp where he was separated from his mother and sister never to see them again.  Released by the Americans he came to England in 1947 with no English or school mathematics he achieved a PhD by 1954.  He was one of a group of geometers let by Professor Semple and Professor Bernard Scott at King’s College, London;.  For a number of years Jerzy went to meetings of the Geometry seminar held alternately at King’s and Sussex University. 

I knew him as a colleague at Exeter where he was a lecturer (1955-1961).  He then went to onto Birkbeck College, London, primarily to teach evening classes to older students who had missed the conventional start to a degree.  His universal friendliness was returned by the many neighbours who cared for him at the end.

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CHRISTOPHER NORMAN

Published online 25 March 2014

Chris NormanChristopher W. Norman, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 20 June 1963, died on 25 January 2014, aged 76.

Eira Scourfield writes:  Chris was born on 23 April 1937 and spent his childhood in Bedfordshire.  He was an undergraduate at the University of Birmingham, graduating in Mathematics in 1958, before becoming a research student at Balliol College, University of Oxford, and working in algebraic topology under the supervision of Professor Ioan M. James.  He was awarded his DPhil in 1961 before taking up a lecturing position at Westfield College, University of London.  He remained there until 1984 when the reorganization of the University of London saw him and seven mathematical colleagues transferred to Royal Holloway.  He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1997 and retired in 2001.

Research in algebra at Westfield College was strengthened when Dan Hughes was appointed in the mid 60’s, so Chris decided to switch his research to this area.  He published some thirteen research papers, mostly in algebra; his only joint paper was with Fred Piper.  He had two research students.  Chris became particularly interested in problems concerning canonical forms and Jordan forms and bases which culminated in three papers in the 1990’s and one in 2008.  In addition he wrote two undergraduate textbooks in algebra based on his lectures at Westfield College and Royal Holloway; one at first year level was published in 1986 and another for the next two levels appeared in 2012.  Chris was highly regarded as a teacher by his students, and they appreciated his exceptionally well prepared lectures, his excellent handwriting and his willingness to help them. Several students remained in contact with him for years after they graduated.  He was a valued colleague, always willing to do reliably, efficiently and without fuss whatever administrative tasks were asked of him.

Chris met his wife Lucy (formerly Wyatt) when she joined the French Department at Westfield College and they married in 1969. They had one son Timothy and a granddaughter arrived in 2013.  From 1984 the family home was in Ascot and Chris enjoyed tending his garden.  He learnt to play the organ as a teenager and this interest continued throughout his life. When at Westfield College he played the organ at church services nearby, and then afterwards he was a church organist in Bracknell for 25 years. Chris became ill in August 2013 and died of cancer less than six months later.

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JOHN BAKER

Published online 25 March 2014

John BakerDr John W. Baker, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 21 December 1961, died on 8 November 2013, aged 75.

John Pym writes: John Baker was born on 31 March 1938 in Finsbury, London. From the Trinity School of John Whitgift, Croydon, he went to the University of Reading, leaving in 1961 with an MSc (by research). There he met his future wife, Sally,and they moved together to the University of Wales at Swansea, John as Assistant Lecturer and Sally as Research Fellow. John's initial research, and his first five papers, were in summability theory. His PhD was awarded in 1966.

At this point he switched interests to functional analysis, an area for which Swansea was renowned. John was drawn into generalisations of group algebras. His success led to his appointment at the University of Sheffield in 1969, where he was soon promoted to senior lecturer. Perhaps his most substantial achievement was in a series of three papers in the LMS Journal written jointly with Sally. He proposed what, with hindsight, was obviously the correct generalisation of the group algebra to locally compact semigroups, presenting elegant alternative characterisations of this algebra and developing its theory.  He went on to write over 40 research papers.  He contributed a survey to The Analytical and Topological Theory of Semigroups (1990), one described by a reviewer as the `most scholarly’ in the book.

That remark captures one of John's invaluable qualities. If he was tasked with doing a job, he did it conscientiously and effectively.  Of his research students, three have become academics with strong publication lists. He taught well everything the department asked of him.  His qualities as an administrator were `rewarded' with the problems of becoming Head of Pure Mathematics.

After early retirement in 2000, John continued serving the community as a leading trustee of a Sheffield charity which exists to help refugees integrate into British society. He is survived by a daughter, Sandra, and a son, Simon.

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HEINI HALBERSTAM

Published online 6 February 2014

Heini Halberstam

Professor Heini Halberstam, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 25 November 1954, died 25 January 2014 in Champaign, Illinois, aged 87.

Harold Diamond writes: Born in Brux, Czechoslovakia, Heini came to Britain in the Kindertransport program in 1939.  With the care and support of Anne Welsford, Heini attended University College, London, where he earned his PhD degree in 1952 under the direction of T. Estermann.  In 1987, he was elected a Fellow of University College.

After positions in Exeter, Royal Holloway, and Dublin, Heini moved in 1964 to Nottingham, where he served at times as Department Head and Dean of Faculty.  Heini came to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1980, was eight years Department Head, and retired as an emeritus professor in 1996.  He also held several visiting positions.

Heini's research ranged over several areas of analytic number theory, most importantly, sieve theory.  His conjecture with P.D.T.A. Elliott about the distribution of prime numbers in arithmetic progressions is one of the outstanding open problems in this area.  Heini was an author of several influential research monographs.  Sequences, with K.F. Roth, made accessible such areas as sums of integers from given sequences and the probabilistic method of Erdös and Renyi. Sieve Methods, with H.E. Richert, provided accounts (some for the first time) of important work of Brun, Selberg, Rosser-Iwaniec, and J.R. Chen.  A Higher Dimensional Sieve Method grew out of his research with Richert and H. Diamond.

Heini supervised 14 PhD.s and many masters students and post-docs, several of whom are now distinguished number thorists.  He also was a force for mathematical education in both Nottingham and the U.S.

Heini was active in the LMS and served as a Vice President and as Secretary of the LMS Journal.  Also, he was a long-time member and a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.  He was on the editorial board of several journals and wrote over 150 Mathematical Reviews. Heini edited or co-edited the collected mathematical papers of W.R. Hamilton, H. Davenport, J.E. Littlewood, and L.K. Hua, and he co-edited the proceedings of two conferences.

Heini's first wife, Heather, died in 1971. He is survived by his second wife, Doreen, who lives in Champaign, IL; by two children living in the U.S.; by two children and two step children in Britain; and by eight grandchildren, all in Britain.

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ANDRZEJ WOJCIECH ORCHEL

Published online 17 January 2014


Andrzej Wojciech Orchel

Dr Andrzej W. Orchel, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 22 November 1969, died on 22 January 2012, aged 65.

Jack Orchel writes: Andrzej (Andrew) Orchel was born in Edinburgh on 16 January 1947. The second of four sons of Dr Eugeniusz and Rozalia Orchel (née Wasylkowska), he attended St Mary’s RC College in Middlesbrough where his interest in projective geometry was ignited by his mathematics teacher Fred Jackson.

Andrew’s undergraduate and postgraduate studies were pursued at Queen Elizabeth College in London from 1966 to 1972. There he was inspired by Dr Otto Wagner. Working alone for several years Andrew eventually produced a doctoral thesis entitled Finite Groups and Associated Mathematical Spaces in which he solved a challenging problem first proposed by Wagner in 1961, later associated with a conjecture of Marshall Hall. Andrew was awarded his PhD and elected a member of the London Mathematical Society in 1979.   Unfortunately, he was burdened with a chronic debilitating illness which had become apparent in his early twenties. This interfered with his advanced studies and prevented him from pursuing an academic career.

Writing in December 1983 Professor W.B. Bonnor of Queen Elizabeth College, London, stated that whilst at QEC Andrew ‘was a brilliant student, especially on the pure mathematical side, and his (undergraduate) marks in Galois theory still rank among the best we have ever had...When he left the college (in 1972) he continued his researches and, in spite of serious ill health which necessitated several operations, he was awarded the PhD of London University...’ Professor Bonnor also described Andrew as a ‘friendly, kindly man, with a strong sense of humour’ and ‘many other excellent qualities, among them persistence, determination and courage.’

Andrew worked briefly for ICI on Teesside but was forced to lead a reclusive lifestyle at the family home in Linthorpe where he was happiest. He was a keen student of nature, a talented amateur photographer and artist and read widely. He devoted much time to studying P shapes and delighted in making discoveries in this field. His legacy lies in his huge archive of photographs and diaries which documents the life of the Orchel family. He died suddenly of a heart attack on 22 January 2012 a few days after his 65th birthday.

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DOUGLAS JONES

Published online 17 January 2014


Douglas Jones

Professor Douglas Samuel Jones, FRS, FRSE, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 18 May 1979, died on 26 November 2013, aged 91.

Brian Sleeman writes: Douglas Jones was born in Corby, Northants, on 10 January 1922. He won a scholarship to Wolverhampton Grammar School where he became Senior Prefect, Captain of both Chess and Cricket as well as Vice-Captain of Soccer. In 1940 Douglas won an open scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. As was the experience of many young men of that period Douglas's University career was interrupted by call up for war service. He joined the Royal Air Force and in 1942, as a Signals radar officer with the rank of Flight Lieutenant, led a research unit of about 100 people engaged in designing and commissioning new equipment for night fighter operations. In recognition of his abilities Douglas was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ in 1943 and awarded an MBE in 1945. In the same year he returned to Oxford graduating MA in 1947. 

Following a year as a Commonwealth Fellow at MIT, Douglas was appointed to an assistant lectureship at Manchester University rising to Senior Lecturer in 1955. It was during this period that Douglas made fundamental contributions to diffraction theory and demonstrated his phenomenal abilities as an analyst. In 1957 he moved to the Chair of Mathematics at the University of Keele where his reputation as a world leader was established with the publication of his monumental book The Theory of Electromagnetism. In 1965 Douglas was appointed to the Ivory Chair of Applied Mathematics at the University of Dundee, a position he held with great distinction until his retirement in 1992, at which point he was made Emeritus Professor.

Douglas's style and approach to mathematical research is nicely encapsulated by the following remark of Sir James Lighthill relating to the theory of generalised functions made at the 1992 Dundee conference to mark his 70th birthday. It concerns Douglas's book The Theory of Generalised Functions.

“I have moreover been overjoyed that my tiny 80-page Introduction to Fourier Analysis and Generalised Functions, which concentrates on functions of just one variable, has proved to be a suitable appetite-whetting ‘starter’, as it were, leading up to Douglas's superbly concocted ‘main dish’ in 540 pages which extends all the results in a comprehensive fashion and includes the corresponding properties of functions of many variables.”

During his career his achievements have been recognised by numerous honours; Fellowship of the Royal Society, Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Honorary DSc of the University of Strathclyde. He was also elected an Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College Oxford, recipient of the Naylor Prize and Lectureship in Applied Mathematics of the London Mathematical Society, the Marconi prize of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, the van der Pol Gold Medal of the International Union of Radio Science and the Keith Prize of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Douglas was a tireless champion and campaigner for the promotion of mathematics and that of the professional mathematician. He was chairman of the UGC (now HEFCE) mathematics sub-committee. Within the wider community Douglas was a founding member of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) served on Council and was appointed President in 1988. It was during his Presidency that he led the negotiations with the Privy Council which resulted in the IMA being incorporated by Royal Charter and then subsequently granted the right to award Chartered Mathematician status.

Douglas was a fine man, a friend and mentor and is greatly missed. He was pre-deceased by his wife Ivy and is survived by his sisters Dot and Joyce.

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ABOLGHASSEM GHAFFARI

Published online 3 January 2014


Abolghassem Ghaffari

Dr Abolghassem Ghaffari, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 22 May 1947, died on 5 November 2013, aged 106.

Vida Ghaffari writes: born in Tehran in 1907, he was educated at Darolfonoun School (Tehran). In 1929, he went to France and studied Mathematics and Physics at Nancy University, where he took his L-es-Sc. in Mathematics in 1932. After obtaining post-graduate diplomas in Physics, Astronomy, and Higher Analysis, he obtained in 1936 his doctorate from the Sorbonne (Doctor of Sciences with mention très honorable) for basic research on Mathematical Study of Brownian Motion.

Dr Ghaffari lectured as a Research Associate at King’s College, London, where he received his PhD from the Mathematics Department on the Velocity-Correction Factors and the Hodograph Method in Gas Dynamics. As a Fulbright Scholar, he worked at Harvard University as a Research Associate to lecture on Differential Equations and to continue his research on Gas Dynamics.

He was a Research Associate in Mathematics at Princeton University, and at the Institute for Advanced Study, he worked in the early 1950s with Albert Einstein on the Unified Field Theory of Gravitation and Electromagnetism. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the US atom bomb program during World War II, was director of the Institute at the time and interviewed Ghaffari before the latter became a member of the Institute (Oppenheimer later befriended Ghaffari).

He lectured as a Professor of Mathematics at American University in Washington, DC and at Tehran University, where he joined the Faculty of Sciences and was appointed full Professor of Higher Analysis from 1941-56.

In 1956, Ghaffari moved permanently to the US to take up a position as a senior mathematician at the US National Bureau of Standards. Part of his work there involved calculations of the motion of artificial satellites.

In 1964, three years into the manned space program, he joined, as aerospace scientist, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center, where he studied the mathematical aspects of different optimization techniques involved in the Earth-Moon trajectory problems, and different analytical methods for multiple midcourse manoeuvres in interplanetary guidance. He later investigated the effects of solar radiation pressure on the Radio Astronomy Explorer Satellite Booms as well as the effects of General Relativity on the orbits of Artificial Earth Satellites.

He was awarded in Iran the Imperial Orders of the late Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and the US Special Apollo Achievement award (1969) at a White House ceremony with President Nixon. He published more than 50 papers on pure and applied mathematics in American, British, French, and Persian periodicals. In addition to two textbooks, he is author of The Hodograph Method in Gas Dynamics (1950).

In 2005, Ghaffari received the Distinguished Scholar award from the Association of Professors and Scholars of Iranian Heritage (APSIH) at UCLA. In 2007, he received a proclamation from former Beverly Hills mayor and current Goodwill Ambassador Jimmy Delshad acknowledging his numerous lifetime achievements. He also recently was appointed as a Hall of Fame inductee by SINA (Spirit of Noted Achievers) at Harvard University.

He was a past member of the Iranian National Commission of UNESCO. Ghaffari was a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Washington Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and a member of the London Mathematical Society, the American Mathematical Society, The Mathematical Association of America, and the American Astronomical Society.

He is survived by his wife, Mitra, and his two daughters, Ida and Vida. He is interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park in Burbank, California. In lieu of flowers, his one wish was to have a scholarship in his name for young Iranians studying Mathematics or Science. Details on the scholarship will be soon announced. 

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LMS NEWSLETTER ONLINE
Published online 28 January 2014

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