Start main page content

Centre for Applicable Analysis and Number Theory

Tributes to John Knopfmacher from Mathematical Colleagues

From: "Arnold Knopfmacher"

Date sent: Sun, 30 May 1999 14:16:41 GMT 2Subject: John KnopfmacherTo all friends and mathematical colleagues of John Knopfmacher.John Knopfmacher passed away unexpectedly on 29th June 1999 from what is believed to be a heart attack, during his stay as a visiting researcher inAustria. John was for many years full Professor and Head of Department at theUniversity of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was alsofounder and first Director of the Centre for Applicable Analysis and NumberTheory at Witwatersrand University, until his retirement in June 1997. John was an internationally renowned researcher with numerous papers and several books to his name. He will live on in the way that will mean the most tohim, through his research work. In particular, his first book "Abstract AnalyticNumber Theory", published in 1974, was selected as a classic by Dover, and a newedition now remains in print indefinitely. A fuller description of hismathematical career can be found on his Centre webpage compiled earlier thisyear.He is survived by his three children, Arnold, Nadine and Kevin in Johannesburg, and his wife Beverley and sister Hazel in Melbourne, Australia. Hewill be greatly missed by all.

Arnold Knopfmacher

From: "Richard Warlimont"

"Two weeks ago John phoned me from Graz. He told me thatyou would join him and that then both of you wouldtravel through Southern Europe. He gave me his phonenumber and said the best time to reach him would beafter 11 am. I told him that I am under pressure rightnow since I am going to move to Passau (120 km downwardsthe Danube) on June 5 and besides packing and decidingwhat to keep and what to discard there would be a lot ofthings to settle. Therefore I postponed phoning himuntil last Monday. In the morning the secretary calledme and said that there are very sad news for me... I loved John so much that when he went away to AustraliaI lost interest in Wits completely. John Knopfmacher,Johannesburg, has been a concept in the mathematicalcommunity which stood for excellence. Therefore I feltso much honoured when in 1989 he invited me to Wits andstill more so when I became his friend. Ever since weworked together and we were complementary in such afavourable way: he contributed the ideas for the chosensubject and outlines for proofs etc while I then wasengaged in the details. It is probable that the last twopapers connected with his name have been written by us.They are typical examples for what I have said before.John was the leading mathematician of his country whichhe had to leave with resignation. I left P.E. early on May 12 to spend the day in Wits. Iwalked around everywhere where once I was so happy.John s second office door still has his name on it. Howoften I knocked at the half open door and was receivedwith a smile of so much charm. In the glass-boxes withthe bulletins they have put the photos of the previousHeads of the Math. Department. John is there of courseand still wearing his beard. My Beverley, yes, John was "the wind under your wings"but you have been the wind under his wings, too. He wasso happy with you, you made him unspeakably happy. Ihave spoken with John on other subjects than mathematicsat many occasions. It turned out that he was more anagnostic than I.

I pray for him and say "Auf Wiedersehn".

Best regards from Richard

From: Lutz Lucht

Dear Arnold,when I arrived here in Graz yesterday evening I got to know the terriblenews.Marita has been informed about your fathers sudden death by a phonecall from Beverley shortly afterwards she has received the message. My family and I are deeply concerned. We have lost a good personal andmathematical friend, your loss is certainly very much larger. We expressour condolence to you and your family including your sister and yourbrother, and share your mourning. Johns death superposes the birth of a Knopfmacher child, which is ahappy event and normally deserves congratulations. Its a veryunfortunate coincidence of contrary incidents; but I will not miss tosubmit our best wishes to you, Sharon and the baby. To think of and toplan for the future, and to carry out his plans in a quiet and modestway, has been characteristic for John. May this live on in hisgrandchild.
In this moment, Marita and I are very sad and feel with you,

Yours Lutz

From: Robert F. Tichy

Dear Arnold:Yesterday I returned from a one week visit to Italy, and Peter Grabnerinformed me that your father, John Knopfmacher, died at our departmentSaturday, May 29, around 1 p.m. His death is a great loss for all hisfriends, for the mathematical community, and of course for me, personally.When I left Graz, one week ago, I talked to him on his plans for his seriesof lectures here in Graz, and my impression was that he felt well. At thisopportunity we looked at a photo of your baby on internet and John said"...he looks like Arnold has looked..." John worked many hours every day atthe department, and he also visited various places in Graz as a tourist.The students liked his courses very much. Obviously, he prepared furthercourses on Saturday in his office room when he died. Clemens Heubergerinformed me today that he met John Knopfmacher on Saturday, 12 o clock.John seemed to feel as usual. So his death is for all of us an enormousstrike.

With cordial sympathy, Robert.

From: Michel Mendes-France

Dear Arnold,I m very sad to learn about the death of your father whom I had thepleasure of meeting once in Oberwolfach.He had impressed me both byhis personality and by his kindness.At that meeting I remember hediscussed about a very nice work that you cossigned with him.

Warmest sympathy,michel MF

From: Joachim von zur Gathen

Dear Arnold,I wish to extend my condolences for the loss of your father.He was a great man and mathematician.Best,Joachim

From: "Barry Green"

Dear Arnold,I had not yet heard that your father passed away on Saterday -- please accept my condolences at this very sad time for yourself and family. As you mentioned in the attached letter John played a very active role in mathematics, both nationally and internationally, and will be missed by many people. I never really got to know himwell, but remember one interesting and enjoyable discusion at the Journees Arithmetique meeting in Geneva some years ago (in 1991) while I was still living in Germany. He gave an interesting talk on work you had done jointly, and on the Wednesday afternoon we spoke to each other on the bus which was taking us on an outing before the conference dinner.

Sincerely, Barry Green

From: Wolfgang Schwarz

Dear Professor Arnold Knopfmacher,I am very sad to get your last e-mail message about the totally unexpecteddeath of your father, whom I knew so well and with whom I had several joint papers.I cannot imagine, that John is no longer alive. I feel with you and Nadine and Kevin,

sincerely yours Wolfgang Schwarz, Frankfurt am Main.

From: Mike Mays

Hi Arnold-- What a shock to hear about your father. I am so glad I was able to get to know him when I visited Wits--his work was an inspiration early in my career, and he impressed me as quite a gentleman when I met him in person. I hope he had a chance to see pictures of Caylee on the internet. Maybe you could arrange to have some of the events of the Capetown meeting next January or the Number Theory Day at Wits dedicated to him. That would be an appropriate way to acknowledge his ongoing influence on the mathematical culture in South Africa, and the impact that his ideas have had worldwide. Please convey my sympathy to Kevin especially, and to Nadine and your mother.


From: "david sherwell"

Dear Arnold, I was sad to hear about your father. We never talked and he was very reserved but I did get a smile from him after one of my talks to your Centre and I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I must have said something right! I remembered that...perhaps a bit like you remembered sharing an elevator with Erdos!

All the very best

From: Philippe Flajolet

Dear Arnold, Dear BeverleyI learnt of the very sad event. Please rest assured thatJohn will be rembered by his colleagues for his scientificcontributions and his personality. I came to know him personallyonly briefly and rather late but this still gave me a chance ofappreciating his scientific vision that will survive through his inspiring books and his teaching.

Sincerely, Philippe


Dear Arnold,I am so sad to hear of the sudden passing of your dad. He was so so kind to him in a very stressful period of my life and I will forever be grateful for the comfort and sympathy he showed me. I wish you and your family long life,

Sincerely Nola Bernstein.

From: Stan Burris

Dear Professor Arnold Knopfmacher, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing ofyour father this past weekend. I had received an e-mailfrom him on Thursday, and was so much looking forward tocorresponding with him on the density notes. AlthoughI never had the chance to meet him, nonetheless I felt acloseness through our correspondence. He was such an enthusiastic, thoughtful, and stimulating person withwhom to discuss abstract number theory. I can surmise from his correspondence that he was also a very kind and caringperson. I feel like I have lost a true friend. And mydeepest sympathy to you and your family.

Sincerely,Stanley Burris

From: Stefan Porubsky

Dear Arnold,The news of John s deadth was a terrible shock to me. I am writing toassure you, your wife Sharon, your brothers Kevin (I hope he remembersme), Nadime (who I never met) of my deepest sympathy. He was such asplendid person that everyone who knew him, must be conscious of whatthis loss must mean to all of you and to the mathematics. I will misshim very much.


From: "DR KC NAIK"

Dear ArnoldPlease accept my deepest sympathy on your sad bereavement. Prof J Knopfmacher, from my memory of him, was a very unassuming, a simple and a soft spoken person.


From: Peter Kirschenhofer

Please let me express my condolence to you and your family on the tragicalloss of your father. Some days ago I had the opportunity to meet him(who was well-known through his books and papers to me in advance) personallyin Graz when Peter Grabner and I had a common lunch with him. A lectureto be given by him was scheduled for next Monday at our seminar in Leoben.I can understand part of your feelings in this sad moment, since I lostmy father three years ago, too.He will survive through his scientific work and his inextinguishable contribution to the reputation of South African mathematics in the world.

Offering my sympathy to you Peter Kirschenhofer

From: "Fazal Mahomed"

Dear Arnold,Many condolences on the passing away of your dad.He certainly has left a legacy in the Math Sciences at Wits andindeed in the international community through his outstandingcontributions. These will be cherished by many for a long time tocome.

Regards Fazal


Dear Arnold,I am stunned to hear of the untimely death of your dear father. My stay at Wits to a large extent was dominated by his presence, both as a teacher, a colleague and as head of department. He has left many memories and great works behind. He has also you and your family who will remember him and continue to give him the great merit he deserves. I wish you comfort in these days of mourning, to you and your family,



Dear ArnoldWhen I saw your father a few years ago fiving a plenarylecture at the SAMS Conference I thought to myself that itis encouraging to see someone at retirement age and stillenjoying what is dear to his heart. On behalf of the South African Mathematical Society andmyself I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to youand your family, most particularly your mother, during thistime of bereavement. We know that you will find strengthand comfort in the knowledge that, at the time of hispassing, John was still busy with what he had enjoyed mostduring his life time.

Regards Jan

From: Eugenijus Manstavicius

Dear Arnold,please accept my deep condolences related to your father,s death.Professor John Knopfmacher was the kindest man and an excellentmathematician as well. You should be proud having had such a farther. I am also having met him once. But the life looks forward. Cordial wishes to yor family.


From: Omar Foda

Dear Arnold,I am very sorry to hear about your father s sudden death.I saw him quite frequently in the department, and we hada very pleasant discussion only a few weeks ago. I told him that a colleague of his from South Africa (Kathrine Driver) sends him her best wishes (I met her earlier at a meeting in Mount Holyoke), and we talked quite a bit about South Africa and Australia. He gave me the the imp-ression of being a very kind man, and I am really sad to hear of his passing away. My sincere condolences,

Omar Foda

From: Barry Hughes

Please accept my personal condolences, and the condolences ofmy colleagues in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.Though, as a retired visitor, John s presence in the departmentwas limited, he remained a major contributor to research, andhad generously offered to assist us on a voluntary basis withteaching in a time of financial strain. As it happened, I didnot need to call on him to teach, but I was touched by hiskindness in this respect.

Barry Hughes

From: David Hayes

Dear Arnold,I am very sadden to hear of the death of John. It was a pleasure tomeet him in person at the joint meetings two years ago, many yearsafter I first learned of his work while sharing a sabbatical officewith James Ridley at Oxford. I believe that "Abstract Analytic Number Theory" came out that same year (74-75), and I remember reading itwith interest.I m sure that you and other associates at the Centre for Applicable Analysis and Number Theory at Wits will continue working in the tradition that he founded.


From: Peter Sarnak

Dear Arnold, I am very sorry to hear about John. He played a big role in putting South Africa on the international mathematical researchscene through his many papers and books. It is a great lossto Mathematics and of course to all his family ,students andfriends. His courses that I took as an undergraduate (in algebra and number theory) opened my eyes to facinatingproblems in this area and have continued to be main interestsince then. I certainly owe a lot to him for this and sadlyI never properly thanked him. Again I am very sorry to hear about this very sad newsand I wish you and your family long life.

Best regards Peter

From: "Kathleen Ann Driver"

We are all sad and distressed by the news of John Knopfmacher s untimely and unexpected death. His association with the Maths Department was both long and very distinguished. He served as Head of the Department for 9 years and received many accolades from the university for his mathematics research activity. He was also honoured by the South African Mathematical Society who presented him with an award in recognition of his outstanding lifelong contribution to mathematics.We extend our sincere condolences to Arnold and Nadine and Kevin and to his wife Beverley in Australia.


From: "Kathleen Ann Driver"

Dear Arnold,I am shocked, distressed and very upset to hear the tragic news of John s death. My sincerest condolences to you and Nadine and Kevin and Beverley. I wish you long life.John was an extremely good friend to me over the years. When I embarked on a Ph.D., he showed the strongest possible support,by reducing my teaching assignments from 4 courses to 2 and even, at one point, reduced my duties further. It is clear that he played a big part in enabling me to become active in research and I will always be indebted to him for his unwavering support and friendship.When John stepped down as head, I approached John Hartney and we went to John s office to ask him whether he indeed did not want to be considered again. He seemed pleased by our approach--there are few people who recognise just how difficult the job is as HOD. Now, of course, I have more of an understanding of that truth than I did then and I am glad that I reciprocated his friendship at that time.His death is a great loss to all of us. I share in your sadness and offer my support and friendship.

With best wishes, Kathy

From: George E Andrews

Dear Arnold, I am really sorry to hear about the death of your father. I greatlyenjoyed meeting him in Melbourne, and I found the work on the Engelexpansions to involve really new ideas. I followed your father s work formany years before that, and I do feel that he did some very interestingmathematics. Indeed, I had the good fortune to review one of his books onabstract analytic number theory for the American Scientist, and I canremember well my pleasure in studying his book carefully. I extend to you and your family my deepest sympathy.


Back to top