University of Rochester

Mathematics Prof. Emeritus Sanford Segal Dies

May 24, 2010

Professor emeritus of mathematics Sanford Segal, who taught at the University of Rochester for 44 years before retiring in 2008, died May 7 at Strong Memorial Hospital after suffering a stroke and a cerebral hemorrhage two weeks earlier. He was 72.

As a faculty member, Segal had broad academic curiosities. In addition to studying pure mathematics, he had a keen interest in history and spent much of his later career researching, teaching, and writing about the history of mathematics. He published a book on mathematicians who stayed in Germany after Hitler came to power, entitled "Mathematicians under the Nazis," in 2003. That same year, he received a secondary appointment in the department of history.

Segal also had a passion for pedagogy of mathematics and science. He was chair of the mathematics department from 1979 to 1987, and served on many campus committees including several terms on the Faculty Senate. Late in his career, he became a member of Judith Fonzi's research group within the Warner School, studying K-12 math education.

"I personally counted him among my dearest colleagues and friends. His passing is a significant loss to K-12 mathematics education and the Warner School community," Fonzi said.

As a mathematician, Segal was a classical analyst who studied analytical number theory and complex function theory. He mentored five doctoral students and published more than 45 papers on mathematics, mathematics education, and the history of science. In 1982 he published the textbook "Nine Introductions in Complex Analysis," now in its second edition.

Colleagues describe Segal as a very determined and tireless scholar.

Mathematics department chair Steve Gonek, who studies similar areas, met Segal while looking for a permanent job shortly after earning his doctorate.

"Sandy had wide interests. He wasn't just a mathematician. He was incredibly well read and had an encyclopedic mind," Gonek said.

Segal received his bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University in 1958 with Honors in Mathematics and High Honors in Classical Civilization. He was a member of Sigma Xi and of Phi Beta Kappa, and he earned two Fulbright Scholarships one to study in German immediately after his undergraduate career, and the second as a research fellow in Austria. In 1982, he received a grant from the Brazilian National Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA) to teach for a summer in Rio de Janeiro.

Shortly before his death, Segal finished a textbook called "Mathematics and Politics." He also published an English translation of a French monograph called "History of Mathematics: Highways and Byways" in 2009.

A longtime member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Segal's interest in peace led to his teaching a course for several years about nuclear issues. Aside from his scholarly pursuits, Segal enjoyed gardening and was an avid chess player.

Segal is survived by his wife, Rima; brothers Edwin Segal and Mark Segal; three children, Adam Segal-Isaacson, Joshua Segal, and Zo Kent; and five grandchildren.

A memorial service on the University of Rochester River Campus is being planned and the flag will be lowered to half-staff on the day of the service.