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April 18, 2014
I have been privileged to know some of the smartest humans who overlapped my life. The very smartest of them all was Andrew (Andy) Mattei Gleason.  He was not only a great mathematician, but his mind was incredibly fast and stored with a huge amount of information on all subjects.  This made him a very valuable consultant to all kinds of companies.  Raoul Bott (another amazingly smart man) was hired by the Harvard Department of Mathematics the year before I started graduate school.  He insisted that there had to be a commons room for graduate students and faculty.  Go became the game of choice there.  Andy could walk through the commons room without paying special attention to the go game in progress and then say what would be the best next couple of moves for both sides in this very complicated game!  He was always friendly to me.

Here I have just plagiarized from Wikipedia.

Andrew Mattei Gleason (November 4, 1921 – October 17, 2008) was an American mathematician who as a young World War II naval officer broke German and Japanese military codes, then over the succeeding sixty years made fundamental contributions to widely varied areas of mathematics, including the solution of Hilbert’s fifth problem, and was a leader in reform and innovation in math­e­mat­ics teaching at all levels.[3][4] His entire academic career was at Harvard, from which he retired in 1992 as the Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. Gleason’s theorem and the Greenwood–Gleason graph are named for him.

Gleason’s numerous academic and scholarly leadership posts included chairmanship of the Harvard Mathematics Department[5] and Harvard Society of Fellows, and presidency of the American Mathematical Society. He continued to advise the United States government on cryptographic security, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on math­e­mat­ics education for children, almost until the end of his life. The Notices of the American Mathematical Society called him “one of the quiet giants of twentieth-century mathematics, the consummate professor dedicated to scholarship, teaching, and service in equal measure.”[6]

He was fond of saying that math­e­mat­ic­al proofs “really aren’t there to convince you that something is true—they’re there to show you why it is true.”[7]


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