Reflections on the Life and Work of Dick Anderson

The following are personal reflections of those who knew Professor Anderson.

Gordon Fisher
LSU Ph.D. Advisee of Dr. Anderson

My wife Dawn (Helene Dawn (Smith) Fisher) and I arrived at LSU in September of 1957 with a 5 week old baby.  We both began graduate assistantships in the mathematics department, and I became a PhD aspirant under the direction of R. D. Anderson.  One of our memories about Dick is that they had a wonderful maid named Victoria who was unable to continue working for Dick and his family because she had difficulty standing for very long due to varicose veins.  So Dick passed her on to us, which helped us to cope with our infant daughter. 

Another memory starts with Dick setting me a problem of proving a certain result for all n-dimensional topological manifolds.  One day after I had worked on the problem for a while, Dick took me aside, and with a troubled look on his face took me to what I remember as an elegant faculty clubroom.  He told me very solicitously that he had been to a meeting somewhere, and found out in conversation with (I think) R. H. Bing that the result could not be true for dimensions 4 or greater.  I therefore pursued the problem for dimensions 1, 2, and 3, and solved a version of it for my PhD dissertation.  It appeared in published form in the Transactions of the AMS, vol. 97, Issue 2, November, 1960, under the title “On the group of all homeomorphisms of a manifold”.  According to the Mathematics Genealogy Project, I was in 1959 Dick’s first successful PhD student.  After that, Dick arranged for me to go to Princeton as an instructor in 1959.  While there, I strayed from mathematics into history and philosophy of science, although I continued to teach mathematics at a number of universities until I retired in 1993.

A third memory that occurs to me is about how Dick played touch football with some of his graduate students, including me, off and on during the years 1958-1959.  I am struck by some parallels:  Dick was born in 1922, and I was born in 1925.  He was born in Connecticut, and a number of my ancestors migrated from England to Connecticut in the 17th century.  I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Dick got a bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota.  Dick and I both served in the U. S. Navy during World War II.  I don’t recall being aware of these facts at the time I was studying under his direction.

 

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