Robert Osserman

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Robert Osserman
Osserman robert.jpg
Osserman in 1984
Born(1926-12-19)December 19, 1926
DiedNovember 30, 2011(2011-11-30) (aged 84)
EducationHarvard University
Known forChern–Osserman inequality
Osserman conjecture (Riemannian geometry)[1]
Osserman manifolds
Osserman's theorem
Nirenberg's conjecture[2]
AwardsLester R. Ford Award (1980)
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University
Doctoral advisorLars Ahlfors
Notable studentsH. Blaine Lawson
de:David Allen Hoffman

Robert "Bob" Osserman (December 19, 1926 – November 30, 2011) was an American mathematician who worked in geometry. He is specially remembered for his work on the theory of minimal surfaces.[3]

Raised in Bronx, he went to Bronx High School of Science (diploma, 1942) and New York University. He earned a Ph.D. in 1955 from Harvard University with the thesis Contributions to the Problem of Type (on Riemann surfaces) advised by Lars Ahlfors.[4]

He joined Stanford University in 1955.[5] He joined the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in 1990.[6] He worked on geometric function theory, differential geometry, the two integrated in a theory of minimal surfaces, isoperimetric inequality, and other issues in the areas of astronomy, geometry, cartography and complex function theory.

Osserman was the head of mathematics at Office of Naval Research, a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Paris and Guggenheim Fellow at the University of Warwick. He edited numerous books and promoted mathematics, such as in interviews with celebrities Steve Martin[7][8] and Alan Alda.[9]

He was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) of 1978 in Helsinki.[10]

He received the Lester R. Ford Award (1980) of the Mathematical Association of America[11] for his popular science writings. He was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki, in 1978.[12]

H. Blaine Lawson was a Ph.D. student of his.[4]

Robert Osserman died on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at his home.[5]


  • Two-Dimensional Calculus[13][14] (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968; Krieger, 1977; Dover Publications, Inc, 2011) ISBN 978-0155924109 ; ISBN 978-0882754734 ; ISBN 978-0486481630
  • A Survey of Minimal Surfaces (1969, 1986)
  • Poetry of the Universe: A Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos (Random House, 1995)[15][16][17]


Topics named after Robert Osserman[edit]

Selected research papers[edit]

  • Osserman, Robert (1964). "Global properties of minimal surfaces in E3 and En". Annals of Mathematics.
  • Osserman, Robert (1970). "A proof of the regularity everywhere of the classical solution to Plateau's problem". Annals of Mathematics.
  • Osserman, Robert (1959). "Proof of a conjecture of Nirenberg." Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics.
  • Chern, Shiing-Shen, and Robert Osserman (1967). "Complete minimal surfaces in euclidean n-space." Journal d'Analyse Mathématique.


  1. ^ Gilkey, P.B. (2001) [1994], "Osserman conjecture", in Hazewinkel, Michiel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Springer Science+Business Media B.V. / Kluwer Academic Publishers, ISBN 978-1-55608-010-4
  2. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Nirenberg's Conjecture". MathWorld.
  3. ^ Hoffman, David; Matisse, Henri (1987). "The computer-aided discovery of new embedded minimal surfaces". The Mathematical Intelligencer. 9 (3): 8–21. doi:10.1007/BF03023947. ISSN 0343-6993. Also available in the book Wilson, Robin; Gray, Jeremy, eds. (2012). Mathematical Conversations: Selections from The Mathematical Intelligencer. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781461301950.
  4. ^ a b Robert Osserman at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ a b "Robert Osserman, noted Stanford mathematician, dies at 84". Stanford Report. 2011-12-16. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ biopage at MSRI
  7. ^ Mathematical One-Liners Exert a Magical Draw (April 30, 2003)
  8. ^ ROBIN WILLIAMS STEVE MARTIN Funny Number 12.15.02 msri bob osserman PART # 1 and ROBIN WILLIAMS STEVE MARTIN Funny Number 12.15.02 msri bob osserman PART # 2
  9. ^ From M*A*S*H to M*A*T*H: Alan Alda in person Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine from MSRI (Jan 17, 2008)
  10. ^ International Mathematical Union (IMU) . [1]
  11. ^ "Paul R. Halmos - Lester R. Ford Awards | Mathematical Association of America". Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  12. ^ International Mathematical Union (IMU) . "ICM Plenary and Invited Speakers since 1897". Retrieved on 16 May 2016.
  13. ^ Wood, J. T. (1970-01-01). "Review of Two-Dimensional Calculus". The American Mathematical Monthly. 77 (7): 786–787. doi:10.2307/2316244. JSTOR 2316244.
  14. ^ Review by Tom Schulte (2012)
  15. ^ "Book Review – A Geometer's View of Space Time: Poetry of the Universe: A Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos" (PDF), Notices of the AMS, 42 (6): 675–677, June 1995
  16. ^ Abbott, Steve (1995-01-01). "Review of Poetry of the Universe: A Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos". The Mathematical Gazette. 79 (486): 611–612. doi:10.2307/3618110. JSTOR 3618110.
  17. ^ La Via, Charlie (1997-01-01). "Review of Poetry of the Universe: A Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos". SubStance. 26 (2): 140–142. doi:10.2307/3684705. JSTOR 3684705.
  18. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Robert Osserman". Retrieved 2017-03-14.
  19. ^ "2003 JPBM Communications Award" (PDF), Notices of the AMS, 50 (5): 571–572, May 2003