Rimhak Ree

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Rimhak Ree
Revised RomanizationI Imhak
McCune–ReischauerYi Imhak
Rimhak Ree
Native name
이임학 (李林學)
Born(1922-12-18)18 December 1922
Died9 January 2005(2005-01-09) (aged 82)
NationalityKorean, de facto stateless
Alma materUniversity of British Columbia
Known forRee Group
Spouse(s)Rhoda Ree 
  • Korea Science & Technology Hall of Fame (2007)
Scientific career
Group Theory
ThesisWitt Algebras (1955)
Doctoral advisorStephen Arthur Jennings

Rimhak Ree (alternative spelling: Im-hak Ree, December 18, 1922 – January 9, 2005) was a Korean Canadian mathematician. He contributed in the field of group theory, most notably with the concept of the Ree group in (Ree 1960, 1961).

Early life[edit]

Ree received his early education in Hamhung, South Hamgyong, in what is now North Korea; he attended the Hamhung #1 Public Ordinary School (함흥 제 1공립보통학교), and in 1934 entered the Hamhung Public High School (함흥공립고등보통학교).[1] He went onto Keijō Imperial University, where he studied physics, which was an unusual choice for Koreans at the time. Ree graduated in 1944 with a physics degree; he then went to Fengtian, Manchukuo (today Shenyang, Liaoning in the People's Republic of China) to work for an aircraft company.


After the surrender of Japan in 1945 and the end of Japanese rule in Korea, Ree returned to his home country and in 1947 took up a teaching position in the mathematics department at Seoul National University as an assistant professor. Later that year, in Namdaemun Market, Ree found an issue of the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, which proposedly was left by an American soldier. On the Bulletin was the paper 'Note on power series', in which Max Zorn solved a problem about the convergence of certain power series with complex coefficients. In the paper, Zorn posed a question of whether the same result held for power series with real coefficients.[2] Ree solved the problem and sent the solution to Max Zorn. When Zorn received Ree's solution, it was sent to the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society to be published in 1949 with the title 'On a problem of Max Zorn' and become the first mathematical paper published by a Korean in an international journal.[3] During the Korean War, he fled south to Busan, and in 1953 he was awarded a Canadian Scholarship to allow him to study for a Ph.D. degree at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.[4] He completed his dissertation under the title Witt Algebras in 1955. His thesis advisor was Stephen Arthur Jennings. Following the award of his doctorate, Ree was appointed as a lecturer at Montana state university, despite facing several problems regarding his labour permission and nationality. In the summer of 1955 Ree received a grant from the National Research Council of Canada and he worked with Jennings on Lie algebras. His two most renowned papers were written from 1960 to 1961, in which he suggested a Lie type group over a finite field now named after him. In 1962 after being promoted to an assistant professor in mathematics at University of British Columbia, he was granted an academic year which he spent in Yale. He was elected a member of Royal society of Canada in 1964.

Personal life[edit]


When Ree went to extend his visa at the Consulate, his passport was confiscated and he was declared stateless.[5] Eventually, with considerable difficulty, his passport problems were sorted out and he continued to work at the University of British Columbia. Although, his entrance to South Korea was banned until 1996, when the ban was cancelled celebrating quintessential of the foundation of Korean Mathematical Society. According to his colleagues, Rimhak Ree identified his nationality as “Joseon”, which is a former name of Korea as well as a current autonym of North Korea.


  • Ree married Chinese-American Rhoda Ree and had three sons, Ronald, Robert and Richard and from his previous marriage he had two daughters, Erran and Hiran.
  • Ree died on January 9th, 2005 in Vancouver, Canada.
  • Ree’s Erdős number is 1.
  • Robert Langlands recalls Ree as “doing his best, but, in retrospect, I do not think he communicated the essence of the subject, nor did he find any of the students very promising.”


  • Ree, Rimhak (1960), "A family of simple groups associated with the simple Lie algebra of type (G2)", Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, 66: 508–510, doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1960-10523-X, ISSN 0002-9904, MR 0125155
  • Ree, Rimhak (1961), "A family of simple groups associated with the simple Lie algebra of type (F4)", Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, 67: 115–116, doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1961-10527-2, ISSN 0002-9904, MR 0125155


  1. ^ Ju 2007, p. 2
  2. ^ "Rimhak Ree". MacTutor History of Mathematics. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Rimhak Ree". MacTutor History of Mathematics. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  4. ^ Ju 2007, p. 3
  5. ^ "Rimhak Ree". MacTutor History of Mathematics. Retrieved 3 April 2018.


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