|Department of Mathematics
New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8283
August 7, 2000
I am writing on behalf of the Yale University Mathematics Department to send our deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of Professor Thomas Wolff. He was a wonderful man and immensely influential mathematician, and will be greatly missed.
Already as a new Ph.D. he had created quite a stir with his celebrated new method of solving the corona problem. Very rapidly he broadened his scope and was solving old conjectures in many fields of analysis. The topics where he made revolutionary advances covered virtually every facet of modern harmonic analysis, including complex analysis, function spaces, linear and nonlinear potential theory, functional analysis, oscillatory integrals, partial differential equations, and geometry related to the Fourier Transform. The hallmark of his approach to research was to select a problem where the present tools of harmonic analysis were wholly inadequate for the task. After a period of extreme concentration he would come up with a new technique, usually of astonishing originality. With this new technique and his well known ability to handle great technical complications, the problem would be solved. After a few more problems in the area were resolved, the field would be changed forever. Tom would move on to an entirely new domain of research, and the rest of the analysis community would spend years trying to catch up. In the mathematical community, the common and rapid response to these breakthroughs was that they were seen not just as watershed events, but as lightning strikes that permanently altered the landscape.
During his stays at the University of Washington, Chicago, New York University, Berkeley, and Caltech, he befriended and deeply influenced an entire generation of analysts. His personality was quiet by nature, but his generosity in sharing of ideas combined with a sharply penetrating insight made him one of the most respected leaders in analysis over the past twenty years. He produced many outstanding graduate students and in national and international committees was a forceful advocate for young mathematicians.
My colleagues and I share in your deep sorrow and wish to let you know that Tom Wolff will not be soon forgotten.
Peter W. Jones