[FOM] Bjarni Jonsson Obituaries

Dana Scott dana.scott at cs.cmu.edu
Sun Nov 6 15:06:46 EST 2016

I was sad to learn from Mai Gehrke, a recent visitor here in Berkeley, that Bjarni Jansson 
had very recently passed away.  Mai was a collaborator and co-author of his.  I remember
him vividly, though I have not seen him in many years.

Below are two obituary notices and the listing from the Mathematics Genealogy Project.
Note that the Vanderbilt obituary mentions 14 Ph.D. students.  The Genealogy listing
should be corrected.  Can someone help?

> Published in Tennessean on Nov. 6, 2016
> Bjarni Jónsson, originally of Draghals, Iceland, passed away in Cincinnati, OH on 
> Friday, September 30, 2016 at the age of 96. Beloved husband of the late Harriet P. 
> (nee Parkes) Jonsson. Devoted father of Eric (Kaye) Jonsson, Meryl (Bob) Runion Rose 
> and Kristin (Rick) Porotsky. Loving grandfather of Elisabeth (Terry) Winslow, David 
> Runion, and Brent, Gena, Aaron, Billy and Cole Porotsky. Former resident of Nashville,
> Tennessee. He was Vanderbilt's first Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. A leader
> in his field and author of 89 technical papers, he received many commendations for his 
> work, including the Earl Sutherland Prize for Academic Research as well as the Knights 
> Cross awarded by the President of Iceland. 
> Please send donations in his honor to: 
> Bjarni Jonsson Research Prize
> Department of Mathematics
> 1326 Stevenson Center
> Vanderbilt University
> Nashville, TN 37240.

> Noted algebraist Bjarni Jónsson dies
> by David Salisbury, Oct. 12, 2016
> https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2016/10/12/noted-algebraist-bjarni-jonsson-dies/
> Bjarni Jónsson, Vanderbilt’s first Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, died Sept. 
> 30 at the age of 96.
> Born in Iceland, Jónsson earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the 
> University of California-Berkeley and also received an honorary degree from the 
> University of Iceland. He was internationally recognized as a leading authority on 
> universal algebra, lattice theory and algebraic logic.
> In his career, Jónsson authored 89 technical papers and served on the editorial board 
> of several major mathematics journals, including Algebra Universalis. He presented 
> numerous invited talks at mathematics conferences around the world. In 1974, he was an 
> invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians. In 2012 he was 
> elected an inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Society. He was also the 
> recipient of Vanderbilt’s Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor Award in 1974 and 
> the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research in 1982.
> “Bjarni Jónsson was a remarkable mathematician who made field-defining and path-
> breaking contributions in universal algebra, lattice theory and algebraic logic. 
> Anyone who had the fortune to know him admired his integrity, kindness and immense 
> respect for colleagues and friends. His influence on my personal and mathematical life 
> has been enormous, and it is a great privilege that I have had the opportunity to work 
> with and learn from him,” said Professor Constantine Tsinakis, a long-term colleague 
> and a former chair of the mathematics department.
> “To me Bjarni will always be a legend, who in his quiet, sincere, unassuming ways 
> continues to inspire uncountably many algebraists, raising questions and re-examining 
> areas that he feels would benefit from an algebraic approach,” wrote Peter Jipsen, one 
> of the doctoral students that Jónsson advised, on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
> “While some mathematicians almost revel in stringing together long complex arguments, 
> Bjarni has constantly sought to simplify and illuminate the subjects dear to him,” the
> professor of mathematics at Chapman University added.
> Jónsson came to Vanderbilt in 1966 and taught here until his retirement in 1993. When 
> he arrived, mathematics was mostly an undergraduate teaching department. He was 
> instrumental in establishing the department’s graduate program, which presently ranks 
> among the top departments in the nation, according to the latest evaluation by the 
> National Research Council. Jónsson also formed a research group in algebra that 
> attracted mathematicians from around the world and contributed substantially to the 
> high research profile that the department currently enjoys.
> Algebra is the study of mathematical objects and the rules for manipulating them. 
> Jónsson made his most important contributions in the area of universal algebra. It is 
> one of the most abstract subfields of algebra because it studies algebraic structures 
> in general, as opposed to specific classes of algebras, such as groups and fields. The 
> importance of his contributions is reflected by the fact that a number of mathematical
> objects are named for him, including Jónsson and Jónsson-Tarski algebras, Jansson
> cardinals, Jónsson terms, the Jónsson lemma and the Jónsson-Tarski duality.
> During his tenure, Jónsson supervised 14 Ph.D. students. In letters they wrote for a 
> symposium in honor of his 70th birthday, which took place in Iceland in 1990, his 
> former students all expressed a deep appreciation for him as a “respected mathematical
> guide and personal friend.”
> One of the first students he supervised, Steven Monk, now professor emeritus at the 
> University of Washington, recalled advice that he received from Jónsson regarding 
> teaching: “Adventure is not in the guidebook and beauty is not on the map. The best 
> one can hope for is to be able to persuade some people to do some traveling on their 
> own.”
> “Bjarni’s work and scholarly contributions will have a lasting legacy. His name will 
> forever be interwoven in the history of our department. We are honored to have had
> him as a colleague,” noted the current department chair, Professor Mike Neamtu.

> Mathematics Genealogy Project: Bjarni Jónsson
> Ph.D.: University of California, Berkeley 1946  
> Dissertation: Direct Decompositions of Finite Algebraic Systems
> Advisor: Alfred Tarski
> Students: 
> Name		School			Year	Descendants
> Allen Clarke	Brown University	1951	9
> Daniel Wagner	Brown University	1951	
> Peter Fillmore	University of Minnesota	1962	45
> George Monk	University of Minnesota	1966	
> Fred Galvin	University of Minnesota	1967	1
> Thomas Whaley	Vanderbilt University	1968	
> Dang Hong	Vanderbilt University	1970	
> Robert Appleson	Vanderbilt University	1975	
> Henry Rose	Vanderbilt University	1980	3
> Jeh Lee		Vanderbilt University	1983	
> Young Kang	Vanderbilt University	1987	
> Peter Jipsen	Vanderbilt University	1992	
> John Rafter	Vanderbilt University	1994	

More information about the FOM mailing list