Jacob Wolfowitz

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Jacob Wolfowitz was born March 19, 1910, in Warsaw, Poland (Russian Empire) and died July 16, 1981, in Tampa, Florida.

"Jacob Wolfowitz's father emigrated to the USA in 1914 [with his parents Samuel and Helen (Pearlman) Wolfowitz][1] and Jacob joined him in 1920 when he was ten years old. Jacob attended High School in New York and, having graduated, entered the College of the City of New York. While Wolfowitz was in the middle of his undergraduate course the Great Depression began.

"The Great Depression began in 1929 and by 1932 one quarter of the workers in the United States were unemployed. When Wolfowitz graduated in 1931 there was little prospects of good employment so he the next ten years teaching mathematics in a number of different high schools while he worked towards his doctorate. In 1934 Wolfowitz married Lillian Dundes; they had one daughter*, born in 1941 and a son Paul Dundes Wolfowitz, born in 1943.

*"Laura is a biologist living in Israel with her family."[2]

"Wolfowitz met Abraham Wald in 1938 and they began a collaboration which lasted until Wald's death....

"Wolfowitz obtained his doctorate from New York University in 1942 and that year joined the Statistical Research Group at Columbia University. This research group was working on problems related to war work and one of the statistical methods it was working on was sequential analysis....

"At the end of the war Wolfowitz left the Columbia research group and took up a position as associate professor at University of North Carolina. After spending the year 1945-46 there, he returned to Columbia University. He remained at Columbia until after the death of Wald, then he was appointed professor of mathematics at Cornell in 1951. While on the Faculty at Cornell he was visiting professor at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1952, at the University of Illinois in 1953, Technion [Haifa] in Israel in 1957. In 1967 he was visiting professor at both Technion and the University of Paris, and he spent a period at the University of Heidelberg in 1969. He left Cornell and joined the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1970 , retiring in 1978 when he then went to the University of South Florida at Tampa. In 1979 he was Shannon Lecturer of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers."

"Wolfowitz received many honours for his outstanding contributions to statistics. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was elected a Fellow of the Econometric Society, the International Statistics Institute, and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. He was both Rietz Lecturer and Wald Lecturer for this latter Institute. Technion, in Israel, awarded him an honorary degree in 1975."

From an article by J.J. O'Connor and E.F. Robertson, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland, September 2001.[3]


"Up to the sudden death of Abraham Wald (a plane crash while visiting India) in 1950, Wolfowitz collaborated in research mainly with Wald. Starting in 1952 he collaborated with professors Arye Dvoretzky of Hebrew University, Jack Kiefer of Cornell and University of California at Berkeley, and Lionel Weiss of Cornell University. In the 1960s and 1970s Wolfowitz collaborated with Rudolph Ahlswede in his research on coding theory."[4]


"He took a passionate interest in political developments all over the world and visited many countries in connection with meetings or lectures. Somewhat longer periods were spent teaching at the University of Paris, France, the Technion in Haifa, Israel, and at the University of Heidelberg, Germany."[5]


The following was translated online from the original German by Yahoo! and has been editted for clarity.

In 1938, Dr. Wolfowitz met with "Viennese mathematics scientist" Abraham Wald, [who] "had to leave Austria due to the fascist conditions" and came to the United States "on invitation of an American university." With Wald, Wolfowitz "began a fruitful co-operation within the scientific range of the theoretical statistics, the analysis of rows and the decision theory," until Forest's 1950 death "in an airplane misfortune, in India."

Dr. Wolfowitz "was considered [to be an] excellent scientist, researcher and teacher and was member of several scientific and cultural societies. [His] education and his comprehensive knowledge, ... far beyond close frameworks of the science, made [it] that one could talk with [him] about everything. One [his famous quotes] was: 'Let us look at what happens in Euclidean n-space; this was good enough for my grandfather and therefore also for me.' Mathematics was important [to him] for its use in the material world. From philosophical speculations [he] did not think anything."


Note that Abraham Wald "was a Fellow of the Carnegie Corporation studying statistics at Columbia University in New York under Hotelling. ... Wald remained a Fellow of the Carnegie Corporation until 1941.... [During World War II, he] used his statistical expertise to develop a method to estimate aircraft vulnerability."[6]


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