Victor K.A.M. Gugenheim (1923-1995)
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The 1968 Chicago Circle conference was organized by Victor.
I asked his friends and collaborators to contribute biographical
and anecdotal material about him, with the following results,
including a bibliography.
Andrew Ranicki
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Full Name: Victor Kurt Alfred Morris Gugenheim
Born: August 28, 1923, Berlin
Education: Oxford B.A. 1948, M.A. 1950, D.Phil. 1952 (sometimes listed as
1951) under J.H.C. Whitehead
Positions:
Princeton University (Visitor as a Commonwealth Fellow), 1952-54
Birkbeck College, University of London (Assistant Lecturer),1954-56
Johns Hopkins University (Assistant Professor), 1956-64
Imperial College, University of London (Reader), 1964-66
University of Illinois at Chicago (Professor), 1966-91
Died: August 3, 1995, Chicago
Victor established a strong topology tradition at UICC, which is now the
University of Illinois at Chicago.
Pete Bousfield
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Victor Gugenheim was born in Berlin on August 28, 1923. When he was
six, his father taught him to sail which he enjoyed very much. In
1930, he was enrolled in a small private school run by a Fraulein
Wunderlich where the older children were often given the assignment of
adding numbers with seven or eight digits -- the younger ones were
given the simpler assignment of adding the same numbers with the last
four columns wiped out. This was his earliest memory of doing
mathematics.
Victor quickly learned to read and read quite a bit throughout his
childhood including books concerning engineering and science, but
especially anything to do with astronomy. He also mentioned once that
he had read Erich K\"astner's, "Emil und die Detektive" and "Der 35.
Mai" and that they had a great influence on him.
He entered the "Franz\"osisches Gymnasium" in April of 1933. As the
name would seem to imply, the first two years were devoted to learning
French after which all instruction was in French (with the exception of
mathematics and science which were taught in German). He recalled that
when his mathematics instructor taught him about factoring integers
into products of primes, it instantly occurred to him that there was a
possibility that if instead of starting with two, then three, and then
five and so on as he was being taught, if he chose a different order, a
different answer might occur. Thus he recognized the necessity for
uniqueness proofs early on.
Starting in January of 1934, he went to school in Trogen, Switzerland.
While there, he read "popular" books on science by Jeans, Eddington,
and Karlson. Karlson's book "Du und die Natur" fascinated him and he
mentioned that it had influenced him to want to become a theoretical
physicist. He stayed in Trogen from 1933 to 1939 when it was decided
that he would go to England.
At Oxford, when deciding on his graduate studies, he mentioned that, at
the time, it looked like what J.H.C. Whitehead was doing in topology
looked far more exciting than what was going on in theoretical physics
and J.H.C. Whitehead became his PhD adviser.
When I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago
in the late 1970's, I was studying algebraic topology, but my PhD
adviser was John Wood. Victor was ill around then and we did not have
much chance to talk -- except for the time he administered my German
language exam which I passed with a bit of coaching from him!
It was later in the mid 1980's when I came back to UIC as a faculty
member that Victor and I had fascinating conversations about his work
on twisting cochains and related matters. We found much common ground
which led to a series of papers on differential homological algebra.
During this period, I remember reading "Alan Turing: The Enigma" by
Andrew Hodges to find a passage about Turing visiting various
Universities in England to get a better idea of what field he would
like to enter. It mentioned that he had gone to Bristol to visit the
topologist Guggenheim. I recognized, of course, that this name had two
g's while Victor's last name had only one, but nonetheless, the next
day, while chatting with him in the coffee room, I mentioned this
passage and Victor said, "Ah yes, I remember when Alan came to see me"!
He then mentioned that after dinner, they went for a walk and there was
a full moon. Alan took out his handkerchief and doubled it up holding
that up to the full moon to create a Moir\'e pattern. He said, "What
does your topology tell us about this Gugenheim?" Victor then looked at
me and said, in his typical humorous style, "Well, I don't need to tell
you that he did not go into topology".
Victor was diagnosed as having Parkinson's disease in the very late
1980's. In spite of this, he would meet me on Saturdays for coffee and
bagels on Taylor Street just down the road from UIC and we would
discuss mathematics, science, and many of the things I have mentioned
above. We would then spend the afternoon at the office scratching out
ideas on the blackboard until the disease became too advanced around
1992.
Victor Gugenheim died in Chicago on August 3, 1995.
Larry Lambe
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I have only a little to add to Larry's excellent account, but here are a few
points.
One comment is from Bill Cockcroft a long time ago, saying that Victor's
interest in knot theory and low dimensional topology in his thesis was very
much ahead of his time, and perhaps most in the VKAMG nature, but was
unfashionable when he went to the USA. Hence his thoroughly professional
take up of simplicial theory.
Victor responded immediately when I sent him an offprint of my obscurely
published note on what is now called Homological Perturbation Theory (HPT),
and which overlapped with his 1972 paper.
Ronnie Brown
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My favorite Victor anecdote dating from after the Nazis came to power
but before he went to school in Switzerland:
One day the local Gauleiter came to give a lecture on the Aryan race
concluding by singling out the best example -
blond, blue eyed...
Victor Gugenheim
Oh, and the one about his father writing to Herr Hitler with praise for
all the good he was doing if only he would not bother the Jews.
And how the Lutheran chaplain at the Swiss school
confirmed him in spite of Victor's non-belief
Victor once said:
there are several answers to the question
Is there a God?
Yes
No
I don't know
and Victor's own `I don't understand the question'
Jim Stasheff
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I remember one exchange with Victor when we were collaborating, about
American vs English, and specifically simplices vs simplexes, which he
ended by telling me to get over my complices.
Peter May
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While living in Hyde Park, a racially integrated neighborhood in
Chicago, Victor was walking down the street and was suddenly surrounded
by a group of quite young teenage boys who demanded his wallet. He was a
little reluctant to give it to them, so he began to dialog with them. One
of them - he seemed to be the leader - said you speak funny. Where are you
from. Victor told him, and he immediately said "oh, we thought that you
was one of those white guys" and they all took off.
Brayton Gray
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I think Victor went to a school in Cheltenham after moving to England and
then joined a research team in aeronautics (perhaps the Aircraft
Research Establishment at Farnborough) where he claimed he wrote papers
that as a German national he was forbidden to read.
A scrutiny of the dates suggests that Victor may have entered Magdalen
College and passed the First Public Exam in Mathematics in the year
before two years of war service, doing research such as in aviation.
His German origins may have stood in his way as a recruit to Bletchly
Park, and paradoxically permitted him to speak more freely about what
he did. Only now are some of the activities of the other gang
(including work on codes) becoming known [officially].
In 1946 both he and his Magdalen College (Oxford) tutor D. G. Kendall
FRS were released from war related duties. After getting a First Class
degree in Honours Mathematics Victor started as an Advanced Student for
his doctorate, with J.H.C.[Henry] Whitehead.
At that time the titles of Henry's student's theses were all
permutations of one set words involving Problems, Applications, Algebra
and Topology; however the graduate students were expected to find their
own thesis topics, perhaps provoked by the regular seminar Henry
conducted with E.C. Thompson. However, Victor's thesis did not
build on any work of Henry's, and its originality earned him a Research
Fellowship at Magdalen, and the respect of Hugh Dowker.
As our first postgraduate year stumbled to a close, Victor and I stared glumly
from a bridge into dark swirling waters perfectly reflecting our grasp of
algebraic topology. The fact that we had financing for another year kept us
out of that water, and in fact during that year we each acquired promising
seedlings to nurture (though sadly our interests began to diverge).
(Nicholas) Avrion Mitchison FRS, a biologist of intellectually
impressive ancestry, third of three brilliant sons of Baron Mitchison
CBE, QC, and famous writer Naomi Mitchison CBE (which is the way Jos.
Wedgwood and Darwin get in the act) was appointed along with Victor to
a research Fellowship at Magdalen College in 1950 at that time the
College appointed two such Prize Fellows each year. Avrion, like
Victor, took the opportunity of a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship research
in America in 1952.
Michael Barratt
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I knew Victor briefly in Oxford during what must have been our first, or
possibly second year there. I also remember visiting him at home, I think
in Maida Vale, and meeting his rather pale and unforthcoming mother and his
more lively older brother there. I can't at all recall what we talked about
on our Oxford walks and occasional river trips. Certainly not mathematics!
I do recall him as nice and interesting. I am very glad he had such a
distinguished academic career both in Oxford and subsequently, and that
his colleagues clearly regarded him with affection.
Sula Wolff
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I knew Victor in Baltimore when he was at Hopkins where he always wore
red ties, so much so that one Christmas his students presented him with
a multicolored one. He had a cat with whom he shared one bowl of
cereal in the mornings. He adored movies and went constantly,
sometimes 2-3 in 1 day. Among his favorites were The Wages of Fear and
Les Enfants du Paradis. He himself actually was the voice over of a
cat in a short, and became even more realized as King Alonso in The
Tempest in a local college production.
In 1965 he returned to Berlin and attempted to find his family? home in
the Eastern Sector. The house, mansion really, was no longer there
only a few front steps remained. What was there, however, were stakes
to which German Shepherds, dogs, were tethered. The property had
become a canine training field. He said very little, and I, too young
then to ponder about much less ask his thoughts, simply munched on my
marzipan and hoped we could move on since it was bitter cold.
The racial incident mentioned by Brayton Gray is a little inaccurate.
It happened years earlier in Baltimore, but then perhaps Victor himself
had forgotten where, which, however, is of least importance.
He helped me with my German, and more so with my geometry, taught me
how to drive, introduced me to the works of C. S. Lewis, the delights
of junk food, and, I supply here with mixed appreciation, that one goes
to the movies at their beginning not whenever and wherever in the plot.
This last is problematic for me since before Victor I somehow had the
skill not to be lost no matter what was happening on the screen.
I add here since I note on your homepage some gesture to food, that he
also introduced me to blood pudding, a pivotal event from which I
established a healthy aversion to suspicious looking and sounding
cuisine.
His initials stand for Kurt, Alfred, Morris, and were given to him
because his father worried that perhaps being a Jew, he might be
compelled to change his name, and so could rely on these which were
legitimate.
When he visited me in Seattle for a few days, on an impulse I asked if
he would give a talk on Greek mathematics to the Classics Department at
the U. of WA. Even on short notice, many grad students and faculty
attended, and much darkness lifted from our collective (mis)
understanding.
He truly loved teaching, and was genuinely interested in his
students' work and success.
Virginia Magboo
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Bibliography
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, L. A. Lambe and J. D. Stasheff,
Perturbation theory in differential homological algebra II. Illinois J.
Math. 35 (1991), no.3, 357--373; MR1103672 (93e:55018)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, L. A. Lambe and J. D. Stasheff,
Algebraic aspects of Chen's twisting cochain. Illinois
J. Math. 34 (1990), no.2, 485--502; MR1046572 (91c:55018)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim and L. A. Lambe, Perturbation theory in
differential homological algebra I. Illinois J. Math. 33
(1989), no.4, 566--582; MR1007895 (91e:55023)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim and J. D. Stasheff, On perturbations and
A_{\infty} structure. Bull. Soc. Math. Belg. S'er. A 38 (1986),
237--246 (1987); MR0885535 (88m:55023)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On a perturbation theorem for the homology
of the loop-space, J. Pure Appl. Algebra 25 (1982), no.2,
197--205; MR0662761 (83j:55021)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On a modified Eilenberg-Moore theorem,
in Geometric applications of homotopy
theory (Proc. Conf., Evanston, Ill., 1977), II, 177--190, Lecture
Notes in Math., 658, Springer, Berlin, 1978; MR0513574 (80k:55058)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On the multiplicative structure of the
deRham cohomology of induced fibrations. Illinois J. Math. 22
(1978), no.4, 604--609; MR0501054 (58 #18515)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On Chen's iterated integrals. Illinois J.
Math. 21 (1977), no.3, 703--715; MR0482748 (58 #2802)
A. K. Bousfield and V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On PL deRham
theory and rational homotopy theory. Mem. Amer. Math.
Soc. 8 (1976), no.179, {rm ix+94 pp.; MR0425956 (54 #13906)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On the multiplicative structure of the
de Rham theory, J. Differential Geometry 11 (1976), no. 2,
309--314; MR0418083 (54 #6127)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim and J. P. May, On the theory and
applications of differential torsion products, Mem. Amer. Math.
Soc., 142, Amer. Math. Soc., Providence, R.I., 1974; MR0394720 (52
#15519)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim and H. J. Munkholm, On the extended
functoriality of Tor and Cotor, J. Pure Appl. Algebra
4 (1974), 9--29; MR0347946 (50 #445)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On the chain-complex of a fibration,
Illinois J. Math. 16 (1972), 398--414; MR0301736 (46 #891)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim and R. J. Milgram, On successive
approximations in homological algebra, Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 150
(1970), 157--182; MR0260838 (41 #5459)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, Semisimplicial homotopy theory, in Studies
in Modern Topology, 99--133, Math. Assoc. Amer. (distributed by
Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), 1968; MR0225322 (37 #916)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, Cohomology theory in the category of
Hopf algebras, in Colloque de Topologie (Brussels,
1964), 137--148, Librairie Universitaire, Louvain, 1966; MR0227251 (37
#2836)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On extensions of algebras, co-algebras and
Hopf algebras. Amer. J. Math. 84 (1962), 349--382; MR0143788 (26
#1340)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On a theorem of E.H. Brown, Illinois J.
Math. 4 (1960), 292--311; MR0112135 (22 #2990)
M. G. Barratt, V. K. A. M. Gugenheim and J. C. Moore, On
semisimplicial fibre-bundles, Amer. J. Math. 81 (1959), 639--657;
MR0111028 (22 #1895)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim and J. C. Moore, Acyclic models and fibre
spaces, Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 85 (1957), 265--306; MR0086301 (19,160a)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, On supercomplexes, Trans. Amer. Math.
Soc. 85 (1957), 35--51; MR0086299 (19,159c)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim and D. C. Spencer, Chain homotopy and the
deRham theory, Proc. Amer. Math. Soc. 7 (1956), 144--152; MR0087150
(19,310b)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, Piecewise linear isotopy and embedding of
elements and spheres. Proc. London Math. Soc. (3) 3 (1953), I.
29--53, II. 129--152; MR0058204 (15,336d)
V. K. A. M. Gugenheim, Some theorems on piecewise linear embedding,
Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 38 (1952), 333--337; MR0048817
(14,74a)
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last updated 15.5.2005