Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Academic Family Tree Going Back to Maxwell, Newton, and Galileo

I always felt like I was standing on shoulders of giants in terms of outstanding researchers and scientists and, yesterday, my most recent Isenberg doctoral student to receive the PhD, Dong "Michelle" Li, surprised me with a truly special gift. Michelle is my 18th PhD student to receive the PhD.

She had my academic math genealogy tree printed through the Mathematics Genealogy project.

Typically, one is aware (obviously) of one's own PhD students and, of course, of one's dissertation advisor and probably knows of her or his advisor but how far back can you go? Below, I am with Michelle and her parents, both of whom are academics, and who traveled to Amherst for their first visit to the US to help Michelle in her move to assume an Assistant Professorship. Michelle and I are holding a poster of my academic family tree (ancestors and progeny).

Below is a photo of my academic family tree, which includes some renowned scientists such as James Maxwell, Isaac Newton, and Galileo, going back years, and operations researchers, more recently - Stella Dafermos and her advisor, Frederick (Tom) Sparrow.

Speaking of Maxwell, my academic great-great...-grandfather was looking over us when we were recently in Scotland to attend the EUROPT and EURO2015 conferences.

And, since the above photo of the academic family tree is hard to read, below I have included snapshots of the huge poster that Michelle presented to me. What surprises me is the list of academic ancestors that I have who received their PhDs from the University of Edinburgh or the University of Cambridge! Next spring I will be a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University so will have to stop by Cambridge to pay my respects.
It is quite amazing that operations researchers can trace their lineage to physicists but, then again, the father of operations research, Philip Morse, was a physicist!

And since I could not fit all of my PhD students into a readable photo the full list is here.

Just over 4 years ago, OR superstar and fellow blogger, Mike Trick, had a great post: Hello cousin!  In it he noted that we were actually cousins, academically related through Frederick (Tom) Sparrow, who was my advisor's (Stella Dafermos') advisor at The John Hopkins University. His post inspired my blogpost at that time.