Nostalgia corner: John Riordan’s referee report of my first paper

In 1971/1972 academic year, I was an undergraduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and toward the end of the year I wrote a paper about Abel’s sums. I sent it to John Riordan the author of the books  “Combinatorial Identities” and “Combinatorial Analysis”.

I received this letter shortly after my 17th birthday, and I was surely very happy to read the sentence “I think you have had a splendid idea”.  Here is part of Riordan’s remarks. The full report is here.

It took me some time to revise the paper and get it printed. And here is the report for the second version.

And here is part of Riordan’s second round of remarks. The full report is here.

I was certainly happy to read the following sentence: “I would remark that the result for  p = -1  is new and perhaps the simplest derivation of Abel’s result.”

In 1978 I actually visited John Riordan in his office at Rockefeller University, NYC. I remember him as very cheerful and he told me that when his first book appeared he was working at Bell Labs and his managers wanted to talk to him. He was a bit worried that they would not approve of him spending time and effort to write a book in pure mathematics. But actually, they gave him a salary raise!

(If you have a picture of John Riordan, please send me.)

In 1979 the paper appeared.

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7 Responses to Nostalgia corner: John Riordan’s referee report of my first paper

  1. Not just nostalgia, but also a nice historical document (which I always like). One quick question: Was non-anonymous refereeing more common at the time? Or was this an exception?

    (More generally, anonymous refereeing was surely not really a thing in 1900 I believe, but it is in 2000 and I am not sure when the transition happened and how fast it was. I have to look into the history of this …)

  2. Steve says:

    When/why the change from Gill to Gil? I thought it was a typo but appears consistent in the notes.

    • Gil Kalai says:

      Steve, I suppose that somebody told me to use ‘Gill’ in 1972, but later I realized that ‘Gil’ is more correct (and this is also the official English name on my passport that I only got in 1978.)

  3. Rockerfeller University once had a math department? (Or at least employed a mathematician?)

  4. Gil Kalai says:

    When I wrote the post I discovered a very nice site which contained Abel’s original paper, an English translation and explanation, and various other facts links and citations regarding Abel’s identity. But somehow I cannot find it again, so I will be happy for a link.

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