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Israel Nathan Herstein

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28 March 1923

Lublin, Poland

9 Feb 1988

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Yitz Herstein was named Yitzchak and known as 'Yitz' by his friends. His family emigrated to Canada in 1928. He studied at Manitoba, receiving his B.A. in 1945, then at Toronto where he was awarded an M.A. the following year.

Herstein moved to the University of Indiana and received a Ph.D. in 1948 for a thesis written under Zorn 's supervision.

Herstein worked at the University of Kansas for two years, then at Ohio State University for a year before being appointed to Chicago in 1951. There he was influenced by Abraham Albert . During this time he worked on a topic which was to be one of the main themes of his work, namely on conditions on a ring which imply commutativity. For example he worked on conditions of the type xn = x first studied by Jacobson in 1945.

After posts at Pennsylvania and Cornell, he returned to Chicago in 1962 and remained there for the rest of his life.

In addition to work on rings and algebras Herstein also worked on groups and fields. In particular he examined finite subgroups of a division ring. In 115 publications on these topics are listed.

Herstein is perhaps best known for his beautifully written algebra texts, especially the undergraduate text Topics in algebra (1964). Other algebra books included a more advanced ring theory book Noncommutative rings (1968) and a book which he worked on in the last two years of his life Abstract algebra (1986). Much of his own research is put into context in his book Rings with involution (1976).

Herstein supervised 30 research students. One said of him:

He was someone of great warmth who took an intense personal interest in his students and had a knack of getting them to believe in themselves.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland