Department of Mathematics

Van Vleck Hall, 480 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI

In Memoriam: Anatole Beck

Anatole Beck was born in New York City and receive his undergraduate education at Brooklyn College. He received the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University where he was a student of Shizuo Kakutani. He spent most of his career in our department, but also had visiting or semi-permanant positions at Tulane, the London School of Economics (where he was the chair of their department of mathematics for several years), Cornell, Gottingen, Warwick, and at least half a dozen other institutions. He had seven successful Ph.D students from UW.

His research covered many diverse topics, including Banach-space value random variables, topological dynamics, game theory, and operations research. He authored or coauthored more than 50 papers between 1956 and 2000. His book Continuous Flows in the Plane was described in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society as the “complete book as of 1975” on the subject. The book Excursions in Mathematics (written jointly with Don Crowe and Mike Bleicher) is a fascinating book aimed at non-mathematicians; it was first published in 1969 and recently republished, an indication of its continuing relevance. His more recent works dealt with economics, law, and social policy.

He was well known for his role in faculty governance serving on the University Committee and extensively in the UW Faculty Senate. In the latter role he has been described as the “conscience of the university”.

Joel W. Robbin


The year was 1961-2.  I was a postdoc at Berkeley and had accepted an offer to be an assistant professor at Madison.  In late Spring, Anatole found me and introduced himself to me, since he was in Berkeley for a conference.  He was my first aquaintance from Madison.  He gave me his unique perspective on the UW Math Department.          

Since we had both been raised with similar liberal Jewish backgrounds, it was not surprising that we often reached the same conclusions on how to solve a particular political, campus, local, national, or global, problem.  Thus we became good friends.  However, I must confess, our path in reaching our conclusions were usually different.  In fact, on more than one occasion after hearing his line of reasoning, I had to rethink my reasoning to make sure it had ended in the same place.  

We co-authored, with Don Crowe,the book Excursions into Mathematics in 1967 and some mathematics papers on geometry.  One of which caused a stir in the discrete mathematics community.  We used the initial book royalties to set up trust funds for our children. I administered the fund for his children and he, for mine.

We also served together on the University Committee in the early 90s.

He became more than a dear colleague when he married my cousin, Eve Lyn Siegel, and became part of the family.

He was one of the last people with whom I spoke when I was in Madison for the $50^{th}$ anniversary celebration of the Wisconsin Mathematics Talent Search, which, with his help, I ran the first two years of the program.

I will miss his friendship, counsel and unique perspective on the world around us.

Farewell my cousin and dear friend.

Michael N. Bleicher
Emeritus Math Prof
University of Wisconsin, Madison


From WORT:


From Cress Funeral:

UW-Madison Department of Mathematics
Van Vleck Hall
480 Lincoln Drive
Madison, Wi  53706

(608) 263-3054

Contact Us

Got a question about
accessibility, content
or structure of this website?