Marshall Stone

by Angel Ruiz

This brief description would not be complete without highlighting the figure of Marshal Stone, who was the brain in the creation of the CIAEM.

Marshal Harvey Stone was born in New York, the 8th of April, 1903. When he was 16 years old, we went to Harvard and graduated with the summa cum laude distinction in 1992.  Before becoming a professor at Harvard between 1933 and 1946, he was a professor at Columbia (1925-1927), Harvard (1929-1931), Yale (1931-1933), and Stanford (the summer of 1933). Although a graduated and professor at Harvard University, he is mostly know for transforming and revitalizing the Math Department at the University of Chicago. As a  director, for one of the main mathematics  centers of the world,  he hire  famous mathematicians  such as Andre Weil, S. S. Chern, Antoni Zygmund, Saunders Mac Lane and Adrian Albert[i],  Paul Halmos, Irving Seal and Edwin Spanier [ii]. For Saunders Mac Lane, the Math Department that Stone constituted in Chicago was at the time, without a doubt, the leading math department in the country [iii], and probably in the world.

The scientific merits of Stone were many. When he arrived to Chicago in 1946, by recommendation of John von Neumann, to the president of the University of Chicago, he had already made important contributions to  many areas of mathematics, for example, the spectral theory of auto joint operators in Hilbert spaces and in the algebraic properties of Booleans algebra in the study of rings of continuous functions. He is known for the famous theorem of Stone Weierstrass, as well as the compactification of Stone Cech. His most influent book was Linear Transformation in Hilbert Space and their application to Analysis.

He was elected member of the national academy of sciences of the United States in 1938, he was only 35 years old and later  -from 1943 to 1944- president of the American Mathematical Society.

Although there was formally an International Mathematical Union since the beginning of the century, Stone renewed it, recreating it into a Roman Assembly in 1952. Stone was the first president of the new Union between 1952 and 1954. He was a member of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction between 1959 and 1962, and of the International Commissions on Teaching of Science in the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU).

Stone had a strong personality, and had an extraordinary charisma which allowed him to achieve his objectives at the University of Chicago, representing a powerful influence in the international math community.

It should be mentioned, in particular, that Stone had a great sympathy for Latin America; directly benefited many Latin-American students who were making their ways in the world of American mathematics (among them, Professor Jose Joaquin Trejos Fernandez, former President of the Republic of Costa Rica between 1966 and 1970) [iv]. The best proof of his high regard towards Latin-America is, however, his decisively involvement in the conception and sustainability of CIAEM.  Stone was his President from 1961 to 1972.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that Prof. Stone was very influenced by the ideas on research and teaching of the Bourbaki group[v]. He adopted many of the orientations of this group about axiomatic and abstract foundations of Math and Math Teaching. A proof of the close relationship between Stone and the Bourbaki group was the presence in Chicago of Andre Weil, who was for many years the dominant figure of the group, and one of the brightest mathematics  researchers of the moment. Weil was in Chicago between 1947 and 1958.

The broad relevance of Dr. Stone in the global math community explains the international support the CIAEM had at the beginning.

In 1983, President Reagan awarded Professor Stone the most important scientific prize of the country: the National Science Medal, for his synthesis of analysis, algebra and topology.

On January 8th, 1989, in Madras, India, Professor Stone passed away. His legacy in the mathematics of the world was broad and deep, but also, we should stress, was in a very special way in Latin America.

The CIAEM and the math professors of this region would never be able to forget and acknowledge the frank and disinterested valuable support that Professor Stone gave us for the development of our disciplines.

[i] Look up the article of Felix Browder: “The Stone age of Mathematics on the Midway", in the Book edited by Peter Duren: A century of Mathematics in America (Vol. II). Providence, Rhode Island: AMS, 1989.

[ii] Cf. Mac Lane, Saunders, “Mathematics at the University of Chicago. A brief story”, in the book edited by Peter Duren: A century of Mathematics in America (Vol. II). Providence, Rhode Island: AMS, 1989.

[iii] The “Stone era” of the Mac Lane Department positions it between 1946 and 1960, even though Stone had stopped being the Director in 1952. Mac Lane himself succeeded Stone until 1958, following the similar activities established when Stone was in charge of the Department.

[iv] The Department offered scholarships to students: between 1948 and 1960, 114 Ph.D.’s graduated as awarded students. Among them, the famous Argentinean Mathematician A. P. Calderon.

[v] Cfr. Browder in Ob. Cit.