Paul Halmos at Illinois

Paul Halmos, famed mathematician, master expositor, author of several influential books, and originator of the "Halmos symbol" (the end-of-proof box), died on October 2, 2006, in Santa Clara, California.

Born on March 3, 1916, in Budapest, Hungary, Halmos emigrated with his father, a physician, to Chicago, where he attended high school. He graduated from high school at age 15, then entered the University of Illinois, majoring in mathematics and philosophy. After receiving his bachelor's degree, he stayed at Illinois to pursue graduate studies, and he earned his Ph.D. in 1938 under Joseph Doob.

While at Illinois, Halmos came to know many of the luminaries whose photos grace the halls of Altgeld Hall and whose names are attached to prizes and lecture series, and he spent part of that period living in Illini Hall, which at the time was a dormitory. Halmos describes his life at Illinois, in his own inimitable style, in his autobiography, "I want to be a mathematician" (Springer-Verlag, New York, 1985). The following are some quotes from this book.