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Memories & Candles

“A beautiful man. ”
1 of 1 | Posted by: Lisa Macbride - West Hartford, CT


Louis Nirenberg, who died on January 26, 2020 at the age of 94, has had one of the longest, most feted and most sociable careers in mathematics. In more than half a century of research, he has transformed the field of partial differential equations, while his generosity and modest charm have made him an inspirational figure to his many collaborators, students and colleagues. He was a leading mathematician, whose fundamental contributions in the field of partial differential equations were hugely influential. This area of mathematics provides the language we use to describe, and the techniques we use to analyze, diverse problems from many fields, including geometry, physics, and engineering. Over the course of his long and productive career his achievements included the solution of many other important problems, and, equally significant, the introduction of many new ideas and techniques.
Louis Nirenberg was born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1925 and grew up in Montreal, where his father was a Hebrew teacher. His first interest in mathematics came from his Hebrew tutor, who introduced him to mathematical puzzles. He studied Mathematics and Physics at McGill University, graduating in 1945, then came to New York University as a Mathematics masters student. Louis remained at NYU for his entire career: after completing his PhD in 1949, he held a two year postdoctoral position before joining the faculty in 1951. His title was Professor of Mathematics from 1957 until 1999, when he retired and became Professor Emeritus. He was Director of the Courant Institute from 1970 to 1972. Louis Nirenberg is considered one of the most outstanding mathematicians of the 20th century, says president of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Hans Petter Graver. Nirenberg has gathered a significant number of prestigious accolades, among them the American Mathematical Society's BĂ´cher Memorial Prize in 1959. In 1969, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He won the inaugural Crafoord Prize in 1982, received the Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the American Mathematical Society in 1994, and he received the National Medal of Science in 1995. In 2010, he was awarded the first Chern Medal for lifetime achievement by the International Mathematical Union and the Chern Medal Foundation and was co-recipient of the prestigious Abel Prize with John Nash.

Louis Nirenberg is survived by his son Marc Nirenberg, daughter Lisa Macbride and her partner Joseph Ganci, grandchildren Jimmy Macbride and Alma Macbride, sister Deborah Goldberger and partner Nanette Aubin.