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.
He joined Stanford University in 1955. He joined the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in 1990. 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 and Alan Alda.
He received the Lester R. Ford Award of the Mathematical Association of America for his popular science writings. He was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki, in 1978.
Robert Osserman died on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at his home.
- Two-dimensional calculus (Krieger, 1977) ISBN 978-0486481630
- Survey of minimal surfaces (1986)
- Poetry of the universe — a mathematical exploration of the cosmos (Random House, 1995)
- John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow (1976)
- 2003 Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award.
Selected research papers
- 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.
- Robert Osserman at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- "Robert Osserman, noted Stanford mathematician, dies at 84". Stanford Report. 2011-12-16.
- biopage at MSRI
- Mathematical One-Liners Exert a Magical Draw (April 30, 2003)
- From M*A*S*H to M*A*T*H: Alan Alda in person from MSRI (Jan 17, 2008)
- "Paul R. Halmos - Lester R. Ford Awards | Mathematical Association of America". www.maa.org. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
- International Mathematical Union (IMU) . "ICM Plenary and Invited Speakers since 1897". mathunion.org. Retrieved on 16 May 2016.
- 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.
- Review by Tom Schulte (2012) http://www.maa.org/press/maa-reviews/two-dimensional-calculus
- "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
- 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.
- 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.
- "2003 JPBM Communications Award" (PDF), Notices of the AMS, 50 (5): 571–572, May 2003