Department of Mathematics

Van Vleck Hall, 480 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI

Memorial for Hans Schneider

Hans  Schneider, a research mathematician who devoted his  life to the revival of  the classical field of linear algebra, which would later be a basis for the algorithms leading to the development of  Google,  died on  October 28th, 2014  aged 87. The cause was cancer of the esophagus.  

From 1959 to 1993, Mr. Schneider taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where in 1988 he was named the James Joseph Sylvester Professor of Mathematics. But it was as the longtime editor-in-chief of the prestigious journal, “Linear Algebra and Its Applications” and later as a co-founder of the International Linear Algebra Society that he became instrumental in giving new stature to a branch of mathematics  once regarded as old-fashioned and unworthy of serious investigation.

“The different areas of linear algebra to which Hans Schneider has made fundamental contributions are too numerous to mention but the one he is most closely related to is the Perron-Frobenius theory on non-negative matrices,” says Richard Brualdi, Mr.  Schneider’s colleague at UW Madison and current editor in chief of the LAA.  “The development of Google would not have happened without this basic knowledge in linear algebra, matrix theory, and Hans has been a catalyzing force in its revival for the past fifty years.”

“Hans Schneider is one of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th Century in the field of linear algebra and matrix analysis,”  said Daniel Hershkowitz,  President of Bar-Ilan University, Israel and former Minister of Science and Technology of Israel.  “Through his editorial guidance, rigorous teaching of applied mathematics, and development of a  cohesive community of researchers,  Hans Schneider has made significant contributions to the breakthroughs in robotics and the theory of stability, a theory that in turn has played an important role in everything from the economy to ecology.” 

Mr.  Schneider was the author of over a hundred influential research papers, which covered many aspects of  theoretical linear algebra, submitting his first at the age of 24, his last within a year of his death. But it was as editor of the LAA that he was able to redress  the neglect of this field by established national mathematical societies.  When he was named editor in 1972,  the publication was obscure and struggling with few submissions.  By the time he retired the position forty years later, the journal was considered the leading journal in its field, receiving around 1200 submissions annually and leading to about 5,000 pages of print.  

Together with some colleagues,  Mr. Schneider established the International Matrix Group in 1987, which three years later was incorporated as the International Linear Algebra Society (ILAS).  He was its first president from 1990 to 1996.  Mr. Schneider realized that groups in the mathematical culture—which tended to form around distinguished individuals--flourished for a time and then disappeared.  In order to give the society permanence, he established a  formal structure with annual elections.  Currently ILAS has about 400 members in more than 20 countries and publishes two journals.   The 19th meeting of the Society  will take place [was  held] in Korea in August 2014.

Hans Schneider was born in Vienna, Austria, on January 24, 1927 as the only child of two dentists, Hugo and (Isa)Bella (Saphir) Schneider. The family fled the Nazi occupation in March of 1938,  eventually settling in Edinburgh in August 1939 where Hans attended George Watson’s Boys’ College and Edinburgh University. He graduated from the latter with First Class Honors and furthered his studies there  under the idiosyncratic mathematical genius, A.C. Aitken.  He later taught at Queens University, Belfast before arriving in 1959 at his position at UW-Madison where he stayed for the rest of his  career.  In 1966, Mr. Schneider was named Chairman of the Mathematics Department at UW-Madison, becoming one of the youngest, at 39, to reach that position at a major American research university.   During his tenure, he held visiting positions at several Universities including the Technion, Israel, the Technical University of Munich and the University of Birmingham (UK).  He retired from his tenure position as J.J. Sylvester Professor in the year 1993.

In 1948 Hans married Miriam Wieck, a professional violinist, and their marriage lasted over 66 years until his death. He is survived by his wife Miriam;  their three children, Barbara Schneider (Caswell), Peter Schneider, and Michael Schneider; and their six grandchildren, David and Dan Caswell, Hannah and Rebecca Schneider, and Carson Rose and Kurt Schneider.

In 1993, The Hans Schneider Prize of the International Linear Algebra Society was established in his name. 

Hans Schneider webpage

UW News article on his passing:






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