Herbert Wilf

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Herbert Saul Wilf
BornJune 13, 1931
DiedJanuary 7, 2012(2012-01-07) (aged 80)
Alma materColumbia University
Known forCombinatorics
Wilf equivalence
Wilf number
Wilf's sequence
Wilf–Zeilberger pair
Calkin–Wilf tree
Stanley–Wilf conjecture
Szekeres–Wilf number
AwardsLeroy P. Steele Prize (1998)
Euler Medal (2002)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Pennsylvania
Doctoral advisorHerbert Ellis Robbins
Doctoral studentsFan Chung
Richard Garfield
Rodica Simion
E. Roy Weintraub
Michael Wertheimer

Herbert Saul Wilf (June 13, 1931 – January 7, 2012) was a mathematician, specializing in combinatorics and graph theory. He was the Thomas A. Scott Professor of Mathematics in Combinatorial Analysis and Computing at the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote numerous books and research papers. Together with Neil Calkin he founded The Electronic Journal of Combinatorics in 1994 and was its editor-in-chief until 2001.


Wilf was the author of numerous papers and books, and was adviser and mentor to many students and colleagues. His collaborators include Doron Zeilberger and Donald Knuth. One of Wilf's former students is Richard Garfield, the creator of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. He also served as a thesis advisor for E. Roy Weintraub in the late 1960s.

Wilf died of a progressive neuromuscular disease in 2012.[1]


In 1998, Wilf and Zeilberger received the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Seminal Contribution to Research for their joint paper, "Rational functions certify combinatorial identities" (Journal of the American Mathematical Society, 3 (1990) 147–158). The prize citation reads: "New mathematical ideas can have an impact on experts in a field, on people outside the field, and on how the field develops after the idea has been introduced. The remarkably simple idea of the work of Wilf and Zeilberger has already changed a part of mathematics for the experts, for the high-level users outside the area, and the area itself." Their work has been translated into computer packages that have simplified hypergeometric summation.

In 2002, Wilf was awarded the Euler Medal by the Institute of Combinatorics and its Applications.

Selected publications[edit]


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  1. ^ "In Memoriam: Herbert S. Wilf". Math.upenn.edu. 1931-06-13. Archived from the original on 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  2. ^ Hayman, W. K. (1991). "Review: Generatingfunctionology, by H. S. Wilf". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.). 25 (1): 104–106. doi:10.1090/s0273-0979-1991-16036-2.
  3. ^ Ricardo, Henry (April 22, 2006). "Review of generatingfunctionology, 3rd edition". MAA Reviews, Mathematical Association of America.
  4. ^ Whitehead Jr., Earl Glen (1976). "Book Review: Combinatorial algorithms". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 82 (6): 870–872. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1976-14187-0. ISSN 0002-9904.

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