Keller Receives 2014 Honorary Degree

Photos: (left) Keller receives honorary degree; (right) Michael Weinstein, Joseph Keller & C.K. Chu

Joseph B. Keller, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, was conferred an Honorary Doctor of Science degree at the 2014 Columbia University Commencement  on May 21.

A mathematician of broad acclaim and accomplishment, Keller’s research concerns the use of mathematics to solve problems of science and engineering. Among other breakthroughs, he developed the Geometrical Theory of Diffraction (GTD) to describe the propagation of waves. GTD is widely used to analyze radar reflection from objects, to calculate elastic wave scattering from flaws in solids, to study acoustic wave propagation in the ocean and for other purposes. Keller is also known for his formulation of the Einstein-Brillouin-Keller (EBK) method of quantization to determine energy levels of atoms and molecules in quantum mechanics and to solve characteristic value problems in other fields. In addition to the range of applications of GTD and EBK, Keller’s work has catalyzed major developments in fields of fundamental mathematics (Fourier integral operators, the theory of linear and nonlinear waves, and more). Professor Michael I. Weinstein of APAM comments that “Joe Keller has been an inspiration to generations of mathematicians, and fundamental and applied scientists. His work is characterized by deep creativity and startlingly elegant formulations with profound impact. This is combined with a sense of playfulness and joy in thinking mathematically about the world, as in his studies of the pouring qualities of teapots and the dynamics of dice-throwing."

From the 1940s to 1979, when he moved to Stanford University, Professor Keller was on the faculty of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. Among many other awards, he is the recipient of the Wolf Prize, the Frederick E. Nemmers Prize and the National Medal of Science.

Professor Keller was nominated by Professor Weinstein who was an NSF postdoctoral fellow with Professor Keller from 1982 to 1984. Keller is also a long-time friend and colleague of Professor C.K. Chu.


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