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Former MAA President Leonard Gillman Has Died

Former MAA President Leonard "Len" Gillman (born January 8, 1917), known for his work in topology, died April 7, 2009. Emeritus professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Gillman was an accomplished classical pianist, often exhibiting his musical talent at the Joint Mathematics Meetings. He had an Erdős number of 1.

A memorial Celebration of the Life of Leonard Gillman will be held on the afternoon of Saturday, May 16 at 12:30 pm at Green Pastures, 811 West Live Oak, Austin, TX.

Elected Treasurer of the MAA in 1973, Gillman held the office for 13 years. After he retired from the University of Texas at Austin in 1987, he was elected President of the MAA (1987-88).

"Many of you may remember his Rings of Continuous Functions, written with Meyer Jerison, and his wonderful piano performances at the Joint Meetings," MAA Secretary Martha Siegel (Towson University) said. "Those of us who were students of his learned not only mathematics but also how to write (often painfully!) mathematics. He was an excellent mentor to many of us in the MAA, and for me, this is a great personal loss."

Gillman, born in Cleveland, moved to Pittsburgh in 1922, where he started piano lessons, and to New York in 1926, where he began intensive training as a pianist. In 1933, upon graduation from high school, young Gillman won a fellowship to the Juilliard School of Music. He received a diploma in piano from Juilliard in 1938; a B.S. in mathematics from Columbia University in 1942; a master's a year later; and in 1953 a Ph.D. in mathematics from Columbia.

In 1943 Gillman accepted a position at Tufts College, working on projects for the Navy Department and writing a thesis on pursuit curves. In Washington, D.C., Gillman worked for the Navy's Operations Evaluation Group, which was affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1952 he accepted a position at Purdue University, researching topology in collaboration with Melvin Henriksen, Meyer Jerison, and others. Their mathematics concentrated on the ring of all real-valued continuous functions whose domain is a given topological space. Gillman and Henriksen characterized the classes of P-spaces and F-spaces; and Gillman and Jerison wrote the book Rings of Continuous Functions.

In 1958 Gillman was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and he spent the next two years as a visiting member at the Institute for Advanced Study. He and Nathan Fine defined remote points and showed that if the continuum hypothesis holds, then the real line has remote points.

In 1960 Gillman became chairman of the department of mathematics at the University of Rochester and  played a key role in recruiting Arthur Harold Stone and his wife Dorothy Maharam. At Rochester Gillman also became involved in activities of the MAA. In 1969 he joined the University of Texas, where he served as chair of the mathematics department for the initial four years, and remained on the faculty until his retirement in 1987.

For more on Gillman's life click here.


Gillman's key mathematical papers include the following:

ErdÅ‘s, P., L. Gillman, and M. Henriksen. 1955. "An isomorphism theorem for real-closed fields." Annals of Mathematics 61(May):542–554.

Gillman, L., and M. Henriksen. 1956. "Rings of continuous functions in which every finitely generated ideal is principal." Transactions of the American Mathematical Society 82(July):366–391.

Fine, N.J., and L. Gillman. 1962. "Remote points in βR." Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society 13(February):29–36.

Gillman also wrote the invaluable guide Writing Mathematics Well: A Manual for Authors, published by the MAA. He won the Association's Gung Hu Award for distinguished service to mathematics in 1999.—H. Waldman

News Date: 
Wednesday, April 8, 2009