Tribute Essay

11400 WordsDec 17, 201246 Pages
A Tribute to Henry Helson Donald Sarason Henry Helson, a leading figure in harmonic analysis whose ideas have had an enormous impact, died on January 10, 2010. Born on June 2, 1927, Henry grew up in Bryn Mawr, where his father Harry was a professor, carrying out the research that would make him one of the eminent psychologists of his era. His mother Lida, despite her upbringing as a fundamentalist Lutheran, found her way to the Quaker faith when Henry and his sister Martha were children. All three of them became and remained committed Quakers. Henry’s exceptional mathematical abilities shone through early. Although his father Harry hoped Henry would go into physics, Henry was hooked on mathematics. He entered Harvard as an undergraduate, graduating in 1947. His education had been interrupted for thirteen months by military service, which for him, as a Quaker, was a loathsome experience. On the eve of his graduation Henry was awarded a Harvard traveling fellowship. The fellowship enabled him to fulfill an intense desire he had nurtured to visit Europe. In the academic year 1947–1948 he visited London, Paris, Prague, and Vienna, but he spent most of the year in Poland, first in Warsaw, then in Wroclaw. Why Poland? The circumstances are explained in Henry’s essay [5]. He writes: “. . . [I] was crazy to see the destruction caused by the war in Europe. . . . The most desperate place in Europe seemed to be Poland, and there were mathematicians in Poland.” Another passage from the same essay reads: Donald Sarason is professor of mathematics at University of California, Berkeley. His email address is sarason@ math.berkeley.edu. Young Henry, location and date uncertain. In college I had spent much time browsing in the mathematics library, and even in the stacks, and I found Fundamenta Mathematicae and Studia Mathematica of special interest. There were magic names in

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