Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The [I.N.]Comparable I.N. Herstein - Our Math Icon of the Week Revealed

[Only a few more days to vote in the poll in the sidebar! To see the results thus far, you have to cast your vote.]

Well, the secret has been out of course if you read the comments to Doors and Windows Left Unopened, but it's time to officially recognize one of the great teachers and writers of modern mathematics. Israel (Yitzchak or, affectionately, Yitz) Nathan Herstein wrote, IMO, the clearest exposition of Abstract Algebra I have ever read. His Topics in Algebra was a major influence on my development as an undergraduate math major. Whatever ability I have to write a logical structured proof probably came from reading and re-reading his classic. To this day, I can picture his presentation of theorems, particularly how he developed the set of numbers that can be represented as the sum of two squares. Yitz, you can still run rings around anyone!

Our winners...

kevincp wrote:

Mystery mathematician: I N Herstein. I used his unsurpassed text, "Topics in Algebra" as an undergrad in the 60's. A curiosity I came across when browsing his name today was his acute use of logic to demonstrate the superiority of the latke over the hamantash as quoted in R.F Cernea's "The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate". The final line of the "proof" is: "Has anyone here ever seen anyone eating a hamantash with sour cream? Q.E.D."

and our other winner is...

Hypatia who wrote

...your mathematician is Yitzchak Herstein.

Congratulations to our winners!

I will leave Yitz's image up there a few more days - he deserves that recognition.
I will end my tribute to him by quoting one of his 30 research students:

"He was someone of great warmth who took an intense personal interest in his students and had a knack of getting them to believe in themselves."

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