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Dawn Levy, News Service (650) 725-1944; e-mail:

David Gilbarg, mathematics professor emeritus, dies at 82

David Gilbarg, professor emeritus of mathematics and chair of the department from 1959 to 1970, died of natural causes April 20 at his home in Palo Alto. He was 82.

"He brought to Stanford some of the biggest names in the country, even internationally," said Leon Simon, professor and current chair of the Department of Mathematics. These luminaries included Paul Cohen, Don Ornstein, Hans Samelson and Lars Hörmander (now at Lund University), and the late Kunihiko Kodaira and Ralph Phillips. "It was an important period that helped make Stanford one of the leading mathematics departments in the nation."

Gilbarg's work focused on fluid dynamics and nonlinear partial differential equations. His graduate-level book Elliptic Partial Differential Equations of Second Order, published in 1977 and coauthored by his former doctoral student Neil S. Trudinger, is one of the most widely cited texts, said Simon: "It's considered a definitive text in the field of partial differential equations."

Born in Boston on Sept 17, 1918, Gilbarg graduated from City College in New York in 1937. He completed his doctorate in 1941 at Indiana University under the supervision of Emil Artin, at that time one of the preeminent algebraic number theorists in the world.

During World War II, Gilbarg served at the National Bureau of Standards and led the fluid dynamics and theoretical mechanics division at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory.

Gilbarg returned to the University of Indiana as an assistant professor after the war. He spent several summers researching at Stanford before he came to the university as a visiting professor in 1954. In 1957, Gilbarg accepted a position as professor of mathematics, which he held until his retirement in 1989. He continued to be active mathematically until the time of his death.

Samelson, professor emeritus of mathematics, recalled Gilbarg's tenure as chairman of the Mathematics Department: "He was a very good chairman, well organized, with good judgment, always looking out for the members of the department, with high standards for research and teaching. When I came here, he was very helpful and made me feel at home right away. He had a wonderful memory for what had happened at department [or other] meetings, how and when and by whom decisions were made."

Gilbarg is survived by his wife, Shirley, a resident of Palo Alto; a son, Daniel, of Boston; and two grandchildren.

The Stanford Department of Mathematics is planning an event to commemorate Gilbarg's life and work in Autumn Quarter of the next academic year.


By Katie Greene

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