Serge Lang

Professor of Mathematics

Serge LangSerge Lang, A.B, California Institute of Technology, Ph.D. Princeton University, faculty member at Yale since 1972: Your primary love has always been number theory and you have written, by one colleague’s estimate, over 40 books and monographs, many of them concerned with this topic. Several of your monographs are the only, or nearly the only, book treatments of their important subjects. Among your honors and awards are the distinguished Cole Prize for your famous theorem in Diophantine equations. When you received the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition from the American Mathematical Society in 1999 your citation stated that “Perhaps no other author has done as much for mathematical exposition at the graduate and research levels.” Your textbooks also have garnered accolades. Your calculus for undergraduates went through many editions in the seventies and eighties, and your algebra textbook especially is said to have “changed the way graduate algebra is taught,” and has become a standard reference in the field. So prodigious are you as a scholar that there are actual jokes in your profession about you. One joke goes: “Someone calls the Yale Mathematics Department, and asks for Serge Lang. The assistant who answers says, “He can’t talk now, he is writing a book. I will put you on hold.”

In your character, you are uncompromising in your insistence on what you perceive as logical consistency and rhetorical honesty, and you have questioned much received wisdom and many authorities in the external world as well as here at Yale. You are an excellent and deeply caring teacher, and in honor of this several years ago you received the Dylon Hixon Prize for teaching in Yale College. Your students keep in touch with you years after they graduate, and one has created an endowed fund in your honor. Among your many monographs there is one called “The Beauty of Doing Mathematics,” a collection of three dialogues you gave in Paris in the ’80s. Yale is grateful to you for the passion with which you understand, practice and profess the art of mathematics, and wishes you well as you continue your lifelong engagement with its illimitable splendors.

Tribute Editor: Penelope Laurans