Robert H. Szczarba

Percy F. Smith Professor of Mathematics

Robert H. SzczarbaBob Szczarba, B.S., M.S., University of Michigan, Ph.D. The University of Chicago, faculty member at Yale since 1960, your field is algebraic topology and you have been a leading figure in that field since your dissertation days, developing your pathbreaking work in the field of mathematics in many papers on subject matters difficult for the non-mathematician to understand or to pronounce. Collegiality in intellectual work has been one of your hallmarks. By an informal count, you have written at least 15 papers with those who were your junior or senior colleagues at Yale at the time. In addition, you wrote a widely-used textbook called Calculus in Vector Spaces with another junior colleague which still is the backbone of Math 230, the honors course for Yale’s bright, well-prepared, and dedicated mathematics students. These kind of collaborative intellectual ventures have not only advanced knowledge in your field, but have had the added advantage of lifting—through shared enterprise—the collective spirit of a department.

Indeed, one might say working with others and teaching others is an important theme throughout your career. Since your arrival, you served tirelessly in many department positions, including that of Chair. For many years you coached the department’s graduate students in the art of teaching, showing them by precept and example what has made your teaching of mathematics—especially the more elementary courses in mathematics—successful. As Deputy Provost for the Sciences, your fellow provosts with whom you worked closely came to regard you with the deepest respect and affection. Finally, as almost everyone knows, your gifts are not limited to mathematics or, as they say, the “Group IV areas.” Along with another Yale scientist, Harry Wasserman, you are living proof that serious accomplishment in science and art can be co-joined in one person. You are a well-known sculptor, mainly in metal, and your superb world-map piece stands at the entranceway to the Yale Center for International and Area Studies in Luce Hall. As you retire from this faculty, your fellow colleagues, proud of the multiplicity of your gifts and your contributions, gratefully celebrate your gifts to numbers and the arts.

Tribute Editor: Penelope Laurans