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04/28/95

CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (415) 723-2558

Conference planned in honor of mathematician Robert Osserman

STANFORD -- A conference and a public lecture will be held on May 5 and 6 in honor of Robert Osserman, professor emeritus of mathematics.

Osserman is a world renowned mathematician and popular teacher. He recently published a book on cosmology, Poetry of the Universe, that is designed to explain basic concepts of cosmology to the general public.

On Friday, May 5, Osserman will give the Karel deLeeuw Memorial Lecture as part of the conference. The subject of his public talk, "The Shape of the Universe," is based on his new book. The lecture will take place at 4:15 p.m. in Building 380, Room 420-440.

Osserman has been on the Stanford faculty since 1955, after receiving his doctorate from Harvard. He specializes in the study of minimal surfaces, like those formed by soap bubbles. According to his colleagues, Osserman long has been recognized as one of the most popular and effective teachers at Stanford. He has received a Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching and served as chairman of the Mathematics Department from 1973 to 1979. Since 1990 he has acted as deputy director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley.

The basis for Osserman's new cosmology book was his experience teaching one of the most successful interdisciplinary courses on campus. Together with applied physics Professor Sandy Fetter and mechanical engineering Professor James Adams, Osserman designed and team-taught the Values, Technology, Science and Society program course titled "The Nature of Technology, Science and Mathematics." It taught physical, engineering and mathematical principles in a hands-on manner to undergraduates who were not majoring in a technical field.

The theme of the conference is "Geometry in the '90s." Talks will be held at 1 and 2 p.m. on Friday, May 5, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 6, in the basement lecture rooms in Building 380. Talks will be presented by Peter Sarnak, Princeton University; Blaine Lawson, State University of New York-Stony Brook; Mike Gage, University of Rochester; David Hoffman, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Berkeley; Robert Gulliver, University of Minnesota; Tilla Weinstein, Rutgers University; and Paul Malliavin, University Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris.

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