(Guest post from Clyde Kruskal.)

Yesterday (September 19, 2010) my uncle,

Joseph B. Kruskal
passed away.
I just wanted to say a few personal words.
Maybe, later, someone will discuss his work.
Although he is famous in computer science for
Kruskal's Algorithm

Kruskal's Algorithm
and

Kruskal's Tree Theorem
he was not primarily
a computer scientist. He was also a statistician
and

psychometrician.

I recall as a child how happy I was when he came to visit,
usually after giving a talk somewhere. I also remember
that once, when our extended family had a get together
on the Long Island Sound, he spent all day taking
the children one-by-one out sailing.

I always knew the three Kruskal brothers
were well-known mathematicians. But it still surprised
me the first time I actually saw my uncle's work
referenced in a book. I was in college working at
a summer job, learning some graph theory, which
at the time I knew nothing about. As I turned the page of the
book, there was Kruskal's algorithm!
I had never heard of it until then.

Now I have the pleasure of teaching the algorithm in my classes.
I used to think that when I got old enough I would be able
to fool students into thinking that it was actually my own,
but it never quite worked out that way.

I did use his theorem on Totally Unimodular Matrices
that he co-authored with Alan Hoffman, in a paper I wrote with Marc Snir.
When I told Joe we were referencing the theorem, he told me that he rarely
collaborated on research, but this was an exception,
which he very much enjoyed. When looking up the
reference just now, I found an

interesting description
of their
collaboration, which confirmed how I recalled it.

There was a period of time when I used to visit Bell Labs,
where Joe worked. I would stay with him and my Aunt Rachel,
who were wonderful hosts. I used to enjoy
our wide ranging dinner conversations, and I learned so much
about words, politics, statistics, my family, etc.

I apologize if this is a bit disjointed.
It makes me feel better having written it on this very sad day.

--

Posted By GASARCH to

Computational Complexity at 9/20/2010 09:47:00 AM