Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Dock-Sang Rim: 1928-1982

At 54, Mathematics Professor Dock-Sang Rim succumbed to cancer on November 18, 1982.

Dr. Rim entered the U.S. with an undergraduate degree from Seoul National University in South Korea and earned his doctorate at Indiana University in 1957. He taught at Columbia and Brandeis from 1957-1964 and came to Penn in 1965, serving as graduate group chairman, 1974-75 and chairman, 1975-78.

He is survived by his wife and three children.


Oscar Goldman: 1925-1986

The Department of Mathematics announces with great sadness the passing of Dr. Oscar Goldman.

Dr. Goldman, who was Chairman of the Mathematics Department from 1963-1967, died at his home in Bryn Mawr on December 17, 1986. He came to Penn in 1962 from Brandeis University where he had been Chairman from 1952 to 1960.

Our department owes much of its structure and being to Dr. Goldman's insights and innovations. Many of the mathematicians he helped to attract to Penn are still on our faculty. Dr. Goldman was an expert in the area of modern algebra and its applications to questions in number theory.

He is survived by his wife Madge.


Lajos Pukanszky: 1928-1996


Dr. Lajos Pukanszky, an emeritus professor of Mathematics, died on February 15 at the age of 67. He was considered by many to be the world's leading expert on representations of Solvable Lie Groups. Dr. Pukanszky came to the University from UCLA in 1964, as a full professor. He joined the functional analysis group, just forming in the Mathematics Department. That group became, almost at once, the foremost assemblage of functional analysts in the world; Lajos Pukanszky was one of its stars.

Dr. Pukanszky was born in Budapest, Hungary on Nov. 24, 1928. He was educated at the Universities of Debrecen, Budapest and Szeged, receiving his Ph.D. in 1955 at the University of Szeged.

He fled Hungary during the 1956 uprising, arriving at a Yugoslavian refugee camp. His talents were well recognized on this side of the Atlantic. He received a visa and came to the USA in 1957. His career, here, began with an appointment as a Research Associate at an institute in Baltimore. From there, he moved to a position in the Mathematics Department at the University of Maryland. Shortly after that, he accepted a visiting position at Stanford and then a line position at UCLA. He was promoted to tenure a year following that. At that same time, he was happy and proud to become a citizen of the United States.

For more information on his mathemical contributions, see Pukanszky Obituary in the Notices of American Math. Society.

Chung-Tao Yang: 1923-2005

Chung-Tao Yang

Dr. Chung-Tao Yang, emeritus professor of mathematics and former chairman of the department, died September 15, 2005 of cancer. He was 82 years old.

Dr. Yang was born in Pingyang, a small rural village in southeastern China. He graduated at the top of his class in 1946 from Zhejiang University. In the early 1950s he earned his doctorate degree from Tulane.

“In the field of topological transformation groups, Chung-Tao Yang and his longtime collaborator Deane Montgomery of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton were regarded by many as the world’s leaders,” said Dr. Herman Gluck, professor of mathematics.

He taught at the University of Illinois and at Nankai Institute in China and in Taiwan. He became a visiting member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

In 1956 he joined Penn as an assistant professor of mathematics. Two years later he was promoted to associate professor, and became full professor in 1961. In the 1960s, Dr. Yang helped to raise the level of the mathematics department at Penn to international prominence. In the early 1970s he served as its graduate chairman, and from 1978 to 1983 as its chairman.  He earned emeritus status in 1991.

Dr. Yang was an honorary member of Academia Sinica, the most prominent academic institution in Taiwan. He was instrumental in raising funds for a mathematics institute at Zhejiang University.

Dr. Yang is survived by his wife, Agnes; sons, Deane Yang and Kenneth Chang; daughters, Lynne Hamrick and Jeanne Yang; and seven grandchildren.

Andrew Wallace: 1926-2008


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.

Norman Oler: 1929-2011

Norman Oler

Professor Norman Oler, a long time member of the Mathematics Department in SAS, died on the morning of November 1, 2011. Born in Sheffield, England in 1929, he, his father and siblings immigrated to Canada and eventually the United States shortly after the Second World War. He was educated at Universities here and in Canada, receiving his Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1957 from McGill University in Montreal under Hans Zassenhaus.

He came to Penn in 1963 from Columbia University and received Emeritus status in 1993. After his retirement, he continued actively teaching in the Mathematics Department for several years. In his mathematics, he was an expert in the Geometry of Numbers and in the allied field of packing and filling problems in Locally Compact Groups.

He was a gifted councilor whose advice both in the Departm

ent and University wide was often sought and this continued even after his retirement. Perhaps his most important role in this sphere was as director of the Penn-Israel Exchange Program--an exchange program for scholars University wide and their counterparts in the State of Israel. He was successful in raising considerable private sums for this program and had the full support of the University Administration as well as the support of the highest levels of the Israeli Government. In particular, he counted among his friends the then Prime Minister (now President) of Israel, Shimon Peres. He was also active in the Jewish Publication Society of America and, in this connection, was received at the White House and met then President Reagan.

In his private life, he was an avid wood worker during the 60's and 70's, especially toward the beautification of his home in Wynnewood. There, he and his former wife Jacqueline were gracious hosts for the occasional parties that followed the visit of colloquium speakers to the Department. He enjoyed singing, was musically trained and was knowledgeable about the world of Opera.

He leaves his son Col. Adam Oler USAF (an attorney) and daughter-in-law, Lt. Col. Kate Oler USAF, his daughter Dr. Allison Oler Szapary (an internist at Penn Health for Women in Radnor) and son-in-law Dr. Philippe Szapary, his brothers Charles and David, his sister Ruth Plotkin and he had two further sisters, the late Leah Oler and the late Frida Oler Warner. He also leaves five grand-children and his long time companion of his later years, Ria Weissel.

Herbert S. Wilf: 1931-2012

Herb Wilf

Herbert S. Wilf, an innovative mathematics researcher, teacher, writer, journal editor, and the University of Pennsylvania 

Thomas A. Scott Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, died on Saturday, January 7, 2012 in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. The cause of death was a progressive neuromuscular disease.

Wilf was the author of six books and more than 160 research articles. From the 1950's, he was a pioneer in the mathematical programming of early computers, beginning with his work at Nuclear Development Associates, which led to his book Mathematical Methods for Digital Computers, written with A. Ralston. From 1959 to 1962, he taught at the University of Illinois. His early work focused on numerical analysis and complex analysis, and led to numerous research papers as well as a textbook, Mathematics for the Physical Sciences.

Wilf taught at the University of Pennsylvania from 1962 until his retirement in 2006. For him, teaching and research were deeply intertwined, and he was recognized throughout his career for exemplary teaching. In 1973 he received the University of Pennsylvania's Christian and Mary Lindback Award for excellence of undergraduate teaching. In 1996 he received the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for distinguished teaching of mathematics, from the Mathematical Association of America.

In the 1960's, Wilf became interested in the newly developing field of combinatorial analysis. He wrote fundamental research papers, forming the foundation of today's work in discrete mathematics with its applications to computer algorithms and its close interconnections with the mathematical fields of algebra and probability theory. He did pathbreaking work with D. Zeilberger of Rutgers University on a theory of computerized proofs for combinatorial identities. For this work they were awarded the Leroy P. Steele Prize of the American Mathematical Society for Seminal Contributions to Research in 1998. Overall, he contributed over 135 papers in combinatorics and wrote four influential books, including generatingfunctionology and A = B, the latter with M. Petkovsek and D. Zeilberger. In 2004 he was awarded the Euler Medal for Lifetime Contributions by the Institute for Combinatorics and its Applications. He supervised 26 Ph.D. students in combinatorics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Wilf was a pioneer advocate of the open electronic publishing of books and journals. Many of his books are available for free download on his web page, which registered an astounding 350,000 downloads last year. Amazing. He co-founded two major journals, The Journal of Algorithms in 1980 with D. Knuth, and The Electronic Journal of Combinatorics in 1994 with N. Calkin. From 1987 to 1992 he also served as Editor-in-chief of The American Mathematical Monthly, a leading journal that aims for expository and readable dissemination of mathematical work for teachers and researchers. Wilf spoke widely at colleges, universities, and mathematics conferences throughout the world. He was an avid amateur pilot, and often flew himself to these occasions in his private plane.

Over his long career, Wilf co-authored research papers with more than 60 mathematicians. His final papers were as influential as his early ones, including "There's plenty of time for evolution" with W. Ewens, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010. Wilf's wit shone through in some of his whimsical paper-titles, such as "The 'Snake Oil' method for proving combinatorial methods," and in his appreciation of articles written about his work such as B. Cipra's "How the Grinch stole mathematics."

Herbert Saul Wilf was born on June 13, 1931 in Philadelphia, the son of Alexander and Bertha Wilf. He received a B.S. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1952, and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Columbia University in 1958. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Ruth Tumen Wilf, a daughter Susan, two sons David and Peter, and six grandchildren.

Donations to establish an award recognizing outstanding student achievement may be sent to: Herbert S. Wilf Award Fund, Department of Mathematics, University of Pennsylvania, 209 South 33d Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6395.

Some comments on Herb Wilf's Work:

Albert Nijenhuis: 1926-2015

Albert Nijenhuis (November 21, 1926-February 13, 2015) was a Dutch-American mathematician who specialized in differential geometry and the theory of deformations in algebra and geometry, and later worked in combinatorics.

His high school studies at the gymnasium in Arnhem were interrupted by the evacuation of Arnhem by the Nazis after the failure of Operation Market Garden by the Allies. He continued his high school mathematical studies by himself on his grandparents

His university studies were carried out at the University of Amsterdam, where he received the degree of Candidaat (equivalent to a Bachelor of Science) in 1947, and a Doctorandus (equivalent to a Masters in Science) in 1950, cum laude. He was a Medewerker (associate) at the Mathematisch Centrum (now the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica) in Amsterdam 1951-1952. He obtained a Ph. D in mathematics in 1952, cum laude (Theory of the geometric object). His thesis advisor was Jan Arnoldus Schouten.

Albert came to the United States in 1952 as a Fulbright fellow (1952-1953) at Princeton University. He then studied at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton 1953-1955, after which he spent a year as an Instructor in mathematics at the University of Chicago. He then moved to the University of Washington in Seattle, first as an Assistant Professor and then a Professor of Mathematics, departing in 1963 for the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a Professor of Mathematics until his retirement in 1987.

He was a Fulbright Professor at the University of Amsterdam in 1963-1964, and a visiting professor at the University of Geneva in 1967-1968, and at Dartmouth College in 1977-1978. He is now a Professor Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania and an Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington.

In 1958 he was an invited speaker at the International Mathematical Congress in Edinburgh. He was a J.S. Guggenheim Fellow in 1961-1962, again studying at the Institute for Advanced Study. In 1966 he became a correspondent member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences] and in 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

*This was written based on the longer Wikipedia article.


James Michael Gardner Fell: 1923-2016



James Michael Gardner Fel was a Canadian-American mathematician who worked in functional analysiis and representation theory. Dr. Fell grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, and lived there until he was 12, when he went to England to study at Eton College.When he was 17, he returned to Canada and attended University of British Columbia. He graduated at age 19 with a bachelor’s degree. He then earned a PhD in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, with a specialization in analysis.

Dr. Fell taught mathematics at University of Washington, Seattle before coming to Penn.

He joined Penn in 1965 as a professor of mathematics and held that position until his retirement in 1991, when he became professor emeritus.

Dr. Fell had a passion for language and took courses on Sanskrit in Penn’s South Asian studies department. He also learned to speak Icelandic and published six books post-retirement on aspects of Icelandic Christianity. He and his wife visited Reykjavik, Iceland, every year for 20 years.

He is survived by his wife, Daphne; daughter, Rachel (Scott); son, Pete (Stefanie); and grandson, James.