Ricky and Branko

Two dear friends, and great geometers, Ricky Pollack and Branko Grünbaum  passed away a few weeks ago. Ricky was a close friend that both Mazi my wife and I loved, and we were both fascinated by his wisdom, charm and love of life. Branko was my academic grand father and I met him through his writings many years before I had the privilege and pleasure to meet in person.  Here are some pictures of Ricky and Branko. (If you have more, send me and I will add them.)

In future posts I will tell you a little about their mathematics. See also these posts about stories and math related to Ricky ( A Discrepancy Problem for Planar Configurations;  Many triangulated three-spheres!; Academic Degrees and Sex; GLL: Polls and prediction and P=NP . ) and to Branko ( My Copy of Branko Grünbaum’s Convex Polytopes; The World of Michael Burt: When Architecture, Mathematics, and Art meet; Coloring Simple Polytopes and Triangulations; Budapest, Seattle, New Haven ; How the g-Conjecture Came About; GLL: What are proofs for , anyway.) (Links for blog posts on other blogs are welcome.)




Branko with Janos Pach

The legendary mathematical partnership and friendship of Ricky and Eli Goodman is rare in mathematics.

Five generations in Seattle: Branko was the advisor of Micha A Perles (and also of Joram Lindenstrauss, Moshe Rosenfeld, Joseph Zaks and many others). Micha was my advisor (and also of  Meir Katchalski, Michael Kallay, Nati Linial Noga Alon and many others). Isabella Novik was my student and here we are with four student of Isabella: Michael Goff,  Kurt Luoto,  Andy Frohmaderand, and Steven Klee. (From left to right.)


Saugata Basu, Ricky Pollack and  Marie-Francois Roy’s  book Algorithms in real algebraic geometry.


This entry was posted in Combinatorics, Convexity, Geometry, Obituary and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ricky and Branko

  1. Dear Gil,

    Thanks for making this post. Ricky and Branko died (at 83 and 88) within a week of each other, and I was greatly fond of them both.

    I knew Ricky through being a co-founders (with Erwin Lutwak and Eli Goodman) of the Courant Geometry Seminar, of which Ricky was the guiding light for so many years. This seminar was a “dinner seminar,” and I probably had more meals in the the company of Ricky that I did with anyone else other than my family.

    Without Branko (and my thesis adviser Donald Crowe) I would not have the career I did as a mathematician. See my comments here:


    Branko was generous with his ideas and time over many years, and nearly all the mathematics I think about was inspired by his work.

    I will miss, as will the mathematics and geometry community, these extraordinary men.



    • Gil Kalai says:

      Dear Joe, many thanks for the comment.

      I have just learned today that Joseph Zaks, Branko’s student and my mathematical uncle passed away on the same day Sept 14, 2018. I will mention Yossi and his mathematics at a later post.
      (Date corrected and comment edited accordingly : Dec 2019.)

  2. Dear Gil,

    I only just moments ago saw this very sad (and ironic) post about Joe Zaks. I only met Joe in person a few times but many years ago on his way to Seattle he spent a night in my apartment in Forest Hills (before I moved to Long Island) and while I was in England (academic 1974-5) he invited me to attend a conference he had organized in Haifa. Because it was a short event I did not go. It was my hope that I would visit Israel for a longer time some day but now I kick myself that I did not attend because as it turns out I have never yet visited Israel. I also kept track of his research papers because we had common interests in Eberhard problems, non-hamiltonian graphs, and 3-polytopes in general. We exchanged emails fairly regularly. He proved some lovely results.


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