GILBERT BAUMSLAG

Obituary
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BAUMSLAG--Gilbert. Distinguished Professor Emeritus, CCNY, died October 20, after a brief illness. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, he earned his B.Sc. Honours (Masters) and D.Sc. from the University of Witwatersrand, and his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester. He has given keynote addresses in most conferences in infinite group theory on five continents. He worked with many mathematicians and had more than 30 doctoral students. He played tennis, golf and squash in adulthood but always regretted that he had not followed his first ambition, persuaded not to by his father who thought it frivolous: to play cricket for South Africa a game he followed throughout his lifetime. He first came to the U.S. to teach at Princeton and then moved on to NYU, CUNY, and Rice University before rejoining CUNY at City College in 1973 as Distinguished Professor, a classification limited to 175 and is described by CUNY as an exceptional scholar with an international reputation for scholarly and/or research excellence. He had several academic relationships including ETH in Zurich and the University of Warwick in the U.K. He was the author of more than 150 mathematical papers along with books and monographs. His research was supported for decades and for millions by the National Science Foundation. He was also the Founder and Director of the Center for Algorithms & Interactive Scientific Software (CAISS). He had a great fondness for Nantucket where he spent more than 25 years during school vacations and holidays writing papers, exploring problems on his famous 500lb blackboard installed on the office wall of his his beloved old house on Darling Street. He was enormously fond of many friends on Nantucket with whom he shared a lot of important and silly experiences. One such was playing cricket on Darling Street on a hot August night with four amateurs at the game.There were no winners. There were also no losers. He also loved having lunch at The Opera House where there was no rush, no impatience, and just great food, a great atmosphere, all under the guidance of the renowned Gwen Gaillard. And the always present lure of the Atlantic Ocean was not to be ignored. He loved the land of his birth and was truly happy when the government was transformed by the release of Nelson Mandela. He went to Johannesburg whenever possible for more than 40 years not only to see old friends but also to encourage math projects in the country. He is survived by his wife, Mary Kennedy Baumslag, Len Cohen of South Africa, his childhood partner in many misadventures; his well respected friend, Howard Siegel,M.D. and a lot of beloved friends and colleagues, in New York, on Nantucket and around the world; devoted and accomplished former students, several nieces and nephews, and a few remote blood relatives. No service is planned at this time.

Published in The New York Times on Oct. 22, 2014