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[Computational Complexity] Joseph B Kruskal passed away (Guest post by Clyde ...

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  • GASARCH
    (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,
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 20, 2010
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      (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
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