Laurence Chisholm Young

(July 14, 1905 - December 24, 2000)

Professor Emeritus Laurence Chisholm Young died at home in Madison on December 24, 2000 at the age of 95. Laurie, as he was affectionally called, was born in Gottingen, Germany and was the son of British mathematicians, William Henry Young and Grace Chisholm Young. His mother was one of the first women to receive a doctorate in mathematics and one of the first women to receive a doctorate in any field in Europe. Laurie was raised mostly in Lausanne, Switzerland and attended Trinity College of Cambridge University in England. He received an M.A. in 1931 and was a Fellow of Trinity College from 1931 to 1935. He received a Sc.D. in 1938. Professor Young was Professor and Head of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa from 1938 until 1948.

Laurie joined the faculty of UW-Madison in 1948 as Professor of Mathematics. He had a distinguished career in Madison and was given the title ``Distinguished Research Professor'' in 1968. He was Chair of the Department from 1962 to 1964. He retired from the faculty in 1976, when there was still a mandatory retirement age of 70. In 1984 Professor Young received an honorary degree from the Université de Paris-Dauphine. In 1995 a mini-conference was held in Madison to honor Laurie on his 90th birthday. One of the memorable highlights of this conference was a potluck-dinner in the 9th floor lounge of Van Vleck Hall in which everyone was treated to the ethnically diverse, culinary expertise of the faculty and their spouses.

Laurie Young was internationally recognized for his contributions to measure theory, calculus of variations, control theory, and potential theory. His work on geometric measure theory led to what are now called Young measures associated with a weakly convergent sequence of functions. Young measures have found many applications, including to the theory of materials with nonconvex constitutive relations. He is the author of the book ``Lectures on the Calculus of Variations and Optimal Control Theory, published in 1969.

In 1963 Professor Young began the Wisconsin Mathematical Talent Search (now called the Wisconsin Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Talent Search). In this program, which continues today, five mathematical problem sets are sent each year to Wisconsin high schools and middle schools. These mathematical problems do not require much background to solve but they do require ingenuity and insight. In this way it is hoped to identify and nurture mathematical talent among the students in the state and to promote interest in mathematics.

Laurie was a champion chess player and won the Heart of America competition in 1955. In the 1950's he acted in plays on Wisconsin Public Television. A lover of languages, he spoke fluent French, German, and Italian. He enjoyed translating ancient Greek poetry. In his early years at Wisconsin, Laurie would skate across Lake Mendota from his home to campus.

Laurie was preceded in death in 1995 by his wife, Joan Elizabeth Young, and by their son, David, in 1964. He is survived by five children, Frank Young, Elizabeth Rosalind Young, Sylvia Young Wiegand (and spouse Roger Wiegand), Angela Young, and Beatrice Young Nearey (and spouse Terry Nearey).


A Memorial Website for L.C. Young is maintained at the URL:

Return to Main Page