Monday, April 15, 2013

Andrei ז"ל

Andrei Zelevinsky was a Mathematics Professor at Northeastern University in Boston. Andrei was a truly distinguished mathematician.  Among many other things, he co-developed a new innovative concept (quite a rare event) that had a tremendous scientific effect and generated a lot of new research in many fields by a large group of followers.

Just recently, Andrei was named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society. He was awarded the title of The University Distinguished Professor - one of the university’s highest honors - and the ceremony bestowing upon him this honor posthumously will take place on April 18, 2013. Later this month, a conference in honor of Andrei's 60th birthday will be held on the campus of his university.

In addition to his outstanding research, Andrei was a great teacher.  All his life he enjoyed teaching kids: his younger brother, then his children, and recently started teaching his grandchildren. It is a huge loss for them that they won't be able to get more of Andrei's lessons.  Not only a beloved professor at Northeastern, Andrei spent a lot of his free time giving lectures at the math circle for gifted high school kids.

Andrei was uniquely qualified to work with gifted students. To succeed in deeply anti-Semitic Russia of that time, a Jewish kid had to be exceptionally talented - and Andrei was all that and then some. His mathematical talent became apparent at an early age and Andrei's achievements speak for themselves. He was a top student at the famous Moscow "Second School" (the school for the brightest kids at the time), he became a participant and one of the winners of the International Math Olympiad (the toughest problem-solving contest among the school kids from all over the world), and then made it to the top ranks of his chosen profession.

Andrei was fortunate to be given much and he was always generous in giving back to people around him. When a group of courageous mathematicians decided to try to fight the state-sponsored anti-Semitism (Jewish kids were blatantly discriminated against and were (almost) never accepted at the top colleges, including Moscow University) and organize the "Jewish People's University" for (mostly) Jewish kids who were rejected by the official system, Andrei was among the first and most active lecturers. It must be pointed out that this activity was exceptionally dangerous: some of the people involved were arrested and served lengthy prison terms on trumped-up charges, and at least one person was believed to be killed by the KGB. Part 3 of this book contains several people's recollections of what it was like, including Andrei's.

Many of the students Andrei taught at this Independent University - and other places, including the high school attended by both his own children - became distinguished mathematicians in their own right, which is surely a mark of a great teacher.

Andrei was a great family man and a great friend to many people all over the world.  When people got the shocking news of his passing, many of the responses were virtually identical: "Andrei was one of the best persons I have ever met."

He will be (and already is) missed by very many. 

2 comments:

yakovenko said...

I subscribe for every single word in this obituary.

ivolvo said...

So sad. I didn't know Andrey too well but every time our roads crossed either in real or virtual life he would always amaze me with his kindness, intelligence, depth, wittiness.

Ilya Volvovski