Edgar Reich

In Memoriam

When Edgar arrived in Brooklyn with his family to escape the developing holocaust, he was 11 years old. After graduating from Brooklyn PolyTech as an Electrical Engineer at age 20, he went to MIT as a Research Assistant in the Servomechanisms Lab. In the Lab he worked on numerical methods and discovered a still widely used improvement of the Gauss-Seidel iterative method for solving linear equations. Next, at age 22, he accepted a position at the Electronics Division of Rand, working mainly on queuing theory. He worked there full time until 1956, in the meanwhile getting a PhD at UCLA and a leave of two years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Steve Warshawski recruited Edgar to Minnesota in 1956 where he remained in the School of Mathematics for 44 years until his retirement in 2000 at age 73. Edgar's career at Minnesota was as the consummate complex analyst.

Beginning in 1960, he became interested in the emerging theory of quasiconformal mappings of regions in the plane. The theory had been initiated by Teichmueller in the 30s and brought to rigorous status by Ahlfors in the 50s. Edgar was one of the pioneers in its development. He gained particular expertise in extremal and unique extremal mappings of the unit disk and became the worldwide leader in this important aspect of the theory. Perhaps the highpoint of his work was the Reich-Strebel inequalities, which have turned out to be fundamental in understanding the deformation of complex structures on Riemann surfaces. His work in a different aspect of the field led to the Gehring-Reich conjecture on the distortion of area under quasiconformal mappings. This was finally solved by Kari Astala who received the Salem prize for his accomplishment. The Finnish Academy of Science elected Edgar to membership in 1980. Edgar had 5 PhD students (D. Goodman, T. Reed, G. Schwartz, A. Sontag, H. Walczak), brought to Minnesota 4 assistant professors (Richards, Marden, Kelingos, Agard), and mentored 2 postdocs (Fehlmann, Markovic). Edgar was the first outsider to recognize Markovic' brilliance in the field and played a key role in launching his career; he is today an international star. Although Edgar was Head of Department 1969-71, he really eschewed administration of any kind. However, he was devoted to the math library and assisted in maintaining its health and location over many years. Edgar's first wife, Phyllis (Masten) died in 1994. They are survived by two children and five grandchildren: Eugene Reich (Leah, Gabriel, Abigail) of Crystal, and Frances Rabe (Matthew, Andrew) of Inver Grove Heights. Edgar married Julia Henop of Bregenz, Austria in 1998. She died in 2006. Edgar loved to hike with family, friends, and by himself in the Swiss mountains. His ashes, together with those of Phyllis and Julia, are scattered by Seealpsee.

Edgar's scholarship went well beyond mathematics to European history, world geography and languages. He was a stickler for precision and detail, as much in daily life as in mathematics. Edgar's singular personality, character, and depth of knowledge was much appreciated by friends and colleagues worldwide. His premature death is a great loss to our department.

"We thank Al Marden for supplying this article, which is printed in full."