Why the hat?
I was born in 1950 in the coal mining town of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. My parents had arrived there in 1948, my father having spent the war years in Israel (then Mandatory Palestine) and my mother in England, both having fled Vienna after the Anschluss of March, 1938.
In the mid 1950’s the family moved to Sydney, where I spent my formative years in a high school so tough that, in the words of a New York comic, the kids stole hubcaps off moving cars. Of the 250 students who joined the high school in Grade 7, I was one of the forty who made it to Grade 12, and one of the four who matriculated, of whom three went on to University.
My first degree was in Mathematical Statistics at the University of Sydney. Although a disproportionate amount of my time went into Zionist youth activities and watching old movies, I managed to surprise my professors by taking a First Class Honours degree. Somewhere during this period, Geoff Eagleson, an inspired teacher, got me hooked on Probability Theory.
In 1972, already married to Joan, and the father of our first daughter Ariella (nowadays a tenured Senior Lecturer at the Lev Academic Center in Jerusalem) we moved to Canberra, where I spent a year working for the Bureau of Statistics on Box-Jenkins type Time Series Analysis. The nights were spent in writing a M.Sc. thesis on martingale central limit theorems under the eagle eye and constant encouragement of Chris Heyde.
Since working for a living did not seem like much fun, in 1973 we moved back to Sydney, where, at the University of New South Wales, I started a Ph.D. under Michael Hasofer. Michael had this great idea that “There seems to be some connection between random fields and integral geometry: Maybe you should write a thesis about it”. I lived off that suggestion for years.
By 1974 we had a second daughter, Tamar (nowadays VP Technology at Technology and Engineering Emmy winning Beamr,and with a pile of patents to her name) and in 1976 started the life of the Wandering Academic. That year I held a CSIRO Postoctoral Fellowship, which I split between the University of Tel Aviv and Cambridge University.
By 1977 we were back in Australia, and I spent a year in Joe Gani’s “Division of Mathematics and Statistics” in CSIRO. Joe had a great organisation for a while, and I learned what the consulting world was about.
“Recent” is, of course, a rather subjective term.
For me, “recent” starts with our move from Australia to Israel in 1980, which, depending on one’s point of view, was the realisation of a 15 or 2,000 year dream. (I realise that many might not consider 1980 a `recent’ date, but think of it in terms of millennia.)
Both Joan and I joined the Technion, where I have been ever since, full time in the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management until 2008, splitting my time between it and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering from 2008 until 2010, and then moving full time to EE in early 2010. While these may seem a strange homes for a probabilist, their highly inhomogenous structures have provided, and continue to provide, stimulating (even if occassionally frustrating) environments. I highly recommend to all young mathematicians, particularly those who care about what mathematics has to offer to other disciplines, to consider building their careers outside of the rather cloistered confines of mathematics departments.
During this time I learnt Hebrew, weakened, but never lost, my Down Under accent, and even got to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. In fact, my army service was so successful, that I can truly say that none of the mountains I was sent to guard was ever stolen by the enemy. (They were also never attacked by any enemy, which might have a lot to do with my high success rate.)
(You might ask what I was doing guarding mountains from theft: A good question, for which I have no answer. But after the first few years of annual reserve duty I gave up trying to understand, or even believe in, military logic.)
At the left you can see me (in 1984) zealously guarding my library from an attack of silverfish. Yes – that is a serious gun. But no – its handler could never really have been called a serious soldier.
In 1985/6 I took my first sabbatical, spending one semester with the Department of Statistics, UNC Chapel Hill, and one with the late Ron Pyke at the Mathematics Department of the University of Washington. From 1996-1999 I returned to UNC as a regular faculty member. During this three year period I crossed the Atlantic between home (Haifa and the Technion) and UNC 20 times in each direction, collecting frequent flyer points at an incredible rate.
Somewhere along the line I regained my sanity, and returned full time to the Technion, modulo travelling and more sabbaticals.
From September 2003 – March 2004 I visited the most congenial Department of Statistics and Applied Probability at UCSB and also commuted weekly to Stanford to give a course with Jonathan Taylor on a joint fetish – Random Fields on Manifolds. This slowly turned into a book, information on which you can find on my publications page.
During my most recent sabbatical of 2007-2008, I spent a most enjoyable two and half months at the Institute Mittag-Leffler, followed by five very cold but pleasant and productive months at the Harvard Statistics Department working with Sam Kou, and topped off by three enjoyable months at my alma mater, the UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics. During this period I spent a lot of time on a new book, again with Jonathan Taylor but also with the late Keith Worsley, this time concentrating on the applications of random field theory and hopefully written in a style which will make it widely accessible. More details and early chapters are currently available on my publications page, but Keith’s unfortunate passing means that this book will probably never be finished.
Back at the Technion, until my recent retirement I held the Louis and Samuel Seiden Technion Academic Chair, and my interests nowadays centre around various aspects of Applied and Random Topology. You can find out about this on the What do I do and URSAT pages.
More importantly than all of the above, I also see a lot of my six grandchildren.
The oldest graduated from the Technion with a BSc and MSc in Computer Science a couple of years ago, and his younger cousin has done the same in Mechanical Engineering, also at the Technion. As opposed to the non-soldier in the picture above, both of these are devoting six serious years in the Israel Defense Forces. In addition, Grandson #3, signed on for his own 5 serious years.
On October 1, 2018, I formally retired from the Technion, as did my wife. (Compulsory retirement at the end of the academic year during which one turns 68.) At the time of writing (3 months into “retirement”) I am still not quite sure what this means, beyond the fact that I am still doing most of what I did earlier (except for teaching) except that now it is a hobby rather than a profession. (i.e. No-one is paying me for it!)