Basil Gordon
Gordon, Basil
December 23, 1931 - January 12, 2012
Long time UCLA mathematics professor Basil Gordon passed away after a brief struggle with cancer. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland to Basil Gordon (1896-1947) and Helen Williams Gordon (1902-1990). Gordon attended the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, received a Masters degree (1953) from Johns Hopkins University, and completed a PhD (1956) in mathematics and physics under the direction of mathematician Tom Apostol and physicist Richard Feynman at Cal Tech. Gordon was drafted into the US Army, where he worked with rocket scientist Dr. Werner von Braun. Gordon's calculations of the gravitational interactions of earth, moon, and satellite contributed to the success and longevity of Explorer I, which launched in 1958 and remained in orbit until 1970. Gordon joined the UCLA mathematics department in 1959 where he specialized in algebra, number theory, combinatorial problems, and group theory. He notably advanced the work of the great Indian mathematician of the early 1900s, Srinivasa Ramanujan. An elegant and dedicated expositor, Gordon received UCLA's Distinguished Teacher award. He was co-founder and long time (1970-2002) managing editor of the seminal Journal of Combinatorial Theory; Gordon was also managing editor of the Pacific Journal of Mathematics and a founding editor of the Ramanujan Journal. Following his retirement from UCLA in 1993, he continued to be active in mathematics as an editor, referee, and mentor until his final illness. Gordon's mathematical legacy lives on in a wealth of mathematical papers, the 26 PhD students he advised at UCLA, and the 45 students they in turn have advised. He is survived by his brother George Gordon, his nieces Lelia "Dale" Glass, Piper Gordon, and Liza Soutter, his nephew Douglas Soutter, their children, and a pair of Bosendorfer pianos. A memorial gathering will be held at 2:00 PM on March 25, 2012 at the UCLA Math Sciences Building, Room 6620. In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the Museum of Tolerance (
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Published by Los Angeles Times on Jan. 31, 2012.
No memorial events are currently scheduled.
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I was Professor Gordon's student in the 1970s and he was instrumental in my getting my first paper published. He was always extremely supportive and encouraging, all the while insisting on very high standards. A true scholar, and a wonderful man, May God rest his soul.
Michael Berg
January 31, 2012
I was one of Basil's PhD students. He was a gentleman, and a gentle man. He blessed me in so many different ways. I am not eloquent enough to put into words how much he has meant to me and my family.
He was one of my heros.
Ken Ono
January 31, 2012
Remarkable man! Had the honor of being his algebra student back in the 70's and very saddened by his passing. My sincere condolences to the family.
Fred Barthel
January 31, 2012
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