George Szekeres

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George Szekeres
George Szekeres.jpg
George Szekeres, 2001
Born(1911-05-29)29 May 1911
Budapest, Hungary
Died28 August 2005(2005-08-28) (aged 94)
Adelaide, Australia
ResidenceHungary
China
Australia
NationalityHungarian-Australian
Alma materTechnical University of Budapest
Known forSzekeres snark
Kruskal–Szekeres coordinates
Erdős–Szekeres theorem
Spouse(s)Esther Szekeres
AwardsThomas Ranken Lyle Medal (1968)
Scientific career
FieldsMathematician
InstitutionsUniversity of Adelaide
University of New South Wales
Doctoral studentsAlfred van der Poorten

George Szekeres AM FAA (Hungarian: [ˈsɛkɛrɛʃ]; 29 May 1911 – 28 August 2005) was a Hungarian–Australian mathematician.

Early years[edit]

Szekeres was born in Budapest, Hungary, as Szekeres György and received his degree in chemistry at the Technical University of Budapest. He worked six years in Budapest as an analytical chemist. He married Esther Klein in 1936. Being Jewish, the family had to escape from the Nazi persecution so Szekeres took a job in Shanghai, China. There they lived through World War II, the Japanese occupation and the beginnings of the Communist revolution. Their son, Peter, was born in Shanghai.

Career[edit]

In 1948, he was offered a position at the University of Adelaide, Australia, that he gladly accepted. After all the troubles he had had, he began flourishing as a mathematician. A few years later, his daughter Judy was born. In 1963, the family moved to Sydney, where Szekeres took a position at the University of New South Wales, and taught there until his retirement in 1975. He also devised problems for secondary school mathematical olympiads run by the university where he taught, and for a yearly undergraduate competition run by the Sydney University Mathematics Society.

Szekeres worked closely with many prominent mathematicians throughout his life, including Paul Erdős, Esther Szekeres (née Esther Klein), Pál Turán, Béla Bollobás, Ronald Graham, Alf van der Poorten, Miklós Laczkovich, and John Coates.

Honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

The so-called Happy Ending problem is an example of how mathematics pervaded George's life. During 1933, George and several other students met frequently in Budapest to discuss mathematics. At one of these meetings, Esther Klein proposed the following problem:

Given five points in the plane in general position, prove that four of them form a convex quadrilateral.

After allowing George, Paul Erdős, and the other students to scratch their heads for some time, Esther explained her proof.[3] Subsequently, George and Paul wrote a paper (1935) that generalises this result; it is regarded as one of the foundational works in the field of combinatorial geometry. Erdős dubbed the original problem the "Happy Ending" problem because it resulted in George and Esther's marriage in 1937.

George and Esther died within an hour of each other on 28 August 2005 in Adelaide, South Australia.[4]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Centenary Medal". It's an Honour. Canberra: Honours and Awards Branch, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
  2. ^ "Member of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Canberra: Honours and Awards Branch, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 10 June 2002. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
  3. ^ http://www.maa.org/mathland/mathtrek_10_3_00.html
  4. ^ Obituary, The Sydney Morning Herald

References[edit]

  • Giles, J. R., Wallis, J. S., "George Szekeres. With affection and respect", Journal of the Australian Mathematical Society Series A, Vol 21 (1976), No 4, pp. 385–392.
  • Cowling, M., "Obituary George and Esther Szekeres", Gazette of the Australian Mathematical Society, Vol 32 (2005), No 4, pp. 221–224.
  • Erdős, Paul; Szekeres, George (1935). "A combinatorial problem in geometry". Compositio Mathematica. 2: 463–470.

External links[edit]