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Albert Nijenhuis


1926 - 2015 Obituary Condolences
Albert Nijenhuis Obituary
Albert Nijenhuis

Albert Nijenhuis, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania and Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington, passed away peacefully on February 13, at the age of 88. Albert was born on November 21, 1926, in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. He is survived by his wife of sixty years Marianne, his daughters Erika, Karin, Sabien and Alaine and their husbands, and six grandchildren.

Albert was an indifferent student, until he discovered mathematics at age 14. His high school studies were interrupted when his family evacuated from Arnhem because of the failure of the Allies' "Operation Market Garden." He continued his study of mathematics on his own, at his grandparents' home in a small Dutch village. At the University of Amsterdam he accelerated through his coursework, passing several exams in half the normal time. Two years later, in 1952, he received his Ph.D in mathematics, cum laude with a thesis titled "Theory of the Geometric Object".

During his Ph.D work, he developed the "Nijenhuis Tensor", a mathematical formula that solved a central problem in the theory of deformations. He came to the United States in 1952 as a Fulbright Fellow at Princeton University. He then studied at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton from 1953-1955 and returned there in 1961-1963 as a J. S. Guggenheim Fellow. He continued working as a geometer at the University of Amsterdam as a Fulbright Professor from 1963-1964 and then at the Universities of Geneva, Washington and Pennsylvania and at Dartmouth College (more information can be found on Wikipedia). His interest then shifted to combinatorics for many years. After retiring in Seattle his interest in differential geometry was rekindled. In 2012 he became a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society. Albert's last conference presentation and paper were presented at the age of 70, and he published his last note (in the American Mathematical Monthly) at the age of 83.

In addition to mathematics and his family, he loved Seattle; working in his home electronics and carpentry workshops; telling his family stories about Holland, and buying and renovating buildings. He was fortunate to be an early user of computers at a time when they were the domain of large institutions and a handful of enthusiasts.

His family thanks the Hospice program of Group Health for their good care and warm attention to Albert.

A Celebration of Life will be held later this year.
Published in The Seattle Times on Feb. 22, 2015
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