Friday, February 16, 2007


Bill Gasarch again.

Martin David Kruskal was a brilliant Mathematician
who passed away in late December, at the age of 81.
       (His brother Joe, still alive, did Min Spanning Tree.
More on his whole mathematical family later).
He has three children: Karen, Kerry, and Clyde.

Clyde is a theorist in my dept who works on Parallelism.

The memorial for Martin (Feb 11, 2007) was unusual.

When someone passes away there may be a memorial service
where people take turns saying things about the deceased.
The family organizes this.

When an academic passes away there may be a conference held
in his honor (invited talks from people who knew his work).
His collegues organize this.

For Martin Kruskal they had BOTH ON THE SAME DAY!
The intent was that people would GO TO BOTH.
From 1:30-3:30 there were five 20-minute technical talks
about his work.
The speakers were warned that that many lay people would attend.
From 4:00-5:30 there were seventeen 3-minute presentations
about Martin Kruskal, the person.

0) It was held at Princeton in the math building-
like a real conference.

1) The Tech talks were GREAT if you knew just a LITTLE
bit of math. People completely outside of math may have
had some problems following some of it, but they still got
the impression that Martin did great work.

2) The Tech talks had far more personal touches than most
tech talks have.
  The Memorial talks had far more math stories in them than most
memorial talks have.

3) There were between 250 and 300 people there!
Free dinner! No registration fee!

4) Karen Kruskal remarked that Clyde was the only one
of the three children who went into mathematics, and hence
Clyde understood his fathers work.  Clyde would be the first
to tell you that this is not true.  Lay people (she's a lawyer)
do not realize just have vast mathematics is.  To her, Clyde
who works on parallel computation, and Martin, who works on
the mathematics of soliton waves, both do math, and hence
understand each others work. She was half right.

5) Martin had two brothers and two sisters. All three brothers
were first rate mathematicians:
Joe Kruskal: Kruskal MST, Kruskal Tree Theorem on Well quasi orderings,
               Kruskal-Katona theorem
Bill Kruskal: Kruskal-Wallace test in statistics (deceased)
Martin Kruskal: Soliton Waves, Kruskal Coordinates, Plasma Physics. (deceased)

6) Joe Kruskal spoke about how Martin taught him math
at a very young age. (Joe was younger than Martin.)

7) Kerry Kruskal sang a song he wrote, to the tune of
GUYS AND DOLLS, about Martin's work in Mathematical Physics.
I have a copy- Until they put it on YOU-TUBE it is the
second rarest thing in my collection.

8) Clydes Triplets (Recall that Clyde works in parallelism)
performed classical music as a trio.
(Alex-Trumpet, Justin-French Horn, Rebecca-Trumpet)

9) Clyde gave an excellent talk which involved Donald Knuth,
his triples, and yours truly.  Tune in tommorow for that.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I actually ran across some of Martin Kruskal's work this week. I'm leading a graduate reading seminar on Conway's On Numbers and Games, and Kruskal is referenced for several contributions to the theory of surreal numbers.

  2. Do you have to write all your blog entries in this annoying typewriter font?