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Lipman Bers, a Life in Mathematics

Linda Keen, Irwin Kra, and Rubí E. Rodriguez, editors
American Mathematical Society
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Allen Stenger
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Lipman Bers (1914–1993) was a Latvian-born US mathematician who worked in a number of fields, especially complex analysis, minimal surfaces, and partial differential equations. This volume was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth. It is very well done and contains about 1/3 biographical materials and 2/3 survey papers of his work, with just a tiny amount of new results.

The main biographical item is a memoir that Bers worked on until the end of the life, though by then it had only reached about the year 1940 when he emigrated to the United States. Bers was a socialist and a Jew living in middle Europe, and judging by this memoir he spent most of his time dodging the police and the Nazis. He received his PhD in 1938, so the mathematical content of this portion is fairly small. The memoir is supplemented by some notes by his children with further details of their family life. There is also a lengthy obituary and a series of appreciations by other mathematicians. There are a large number of family and professional photographs bound in the center of the book.

The survey articles are very detailed and are at the level of surveys published in the Bulletin of the AMS. The editors note on p. ix that “The main mathematical emphasis of the book, however, is on Bers’ published results on moduli of Riemann surfaces and complex dynamics because this work has had a major impact on today’s mathematical activities in complex analysis and low dimensional geometry and topology.”

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Allen Stenger is a math hobbyist and retired software developer. He is an editor of the Missouri Journal of Mathematical Sciences. His mathematical interests are number theory and classical analysis.