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Andrew Wallace: 1926-2008

Wallace Dr. Andrew H. Wallace, professor emeritus of mathematics at Penn and former chair of the mathematics department (1968-71), passed away January 18 in Chania, Crete, Greece. He was 81.

Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, he graduated in 1946 with an MA in mathematics and physics from Edinburgh University. He earned his PhD in mathematics from St. Andrews University in 1949.

After immigrating to the US in 1959, he served as professor and chair of the mathematics department at Indiana University. He then came to Penn in 1965 and stayed until his retirement in 1986.

Colleagues said his mathematical work was mainly concentrated in topology where he produced fundamental results reported on principally in his series of papers entitled “Modifications and Cobounding Manifolds.” Here, he essentially settled in dimensions 5 and higher, the basic open problem regarding these geometric objects, though he did not push his results to an explicit statement of the solution. This was done by an independent method and almost simultaneously by Dr. Stephen Smale, now professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Wallace’s work in the topology of three dimensional spaces was groundbreaking and remains frequently cited and used to the present day.

Described as “a soft-spoken and quiet man, he possessed a dry sense of humor and had gifts as a painter and musician. His principal avocation during his time at Penn and in retirement was sailing. He maintained a 35-foot craft and, when he retired, he and a small crew sailed it across the Atlantic and Mediterranean to his new home in Crete.” His friends in the department remember a series of postcards from Bermuda, the Azores, Gibraltar, Majorca, Malta, Athens and Crete documenting this voyage.

Dr. Wallace is survived by his wife Dimitra; daughters, Linda Kipp, Susan George, and Corinne Summers; four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a step-daughter, Irene Chilari; and a step-granddaughter, Dimitra Chilari.