Ithaca, N.Y. – Mathematician and former Cornell University professor Eugene Dynkin died at age 90 on Nov. 14 at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, according to the university.
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Laurent Saloff-Coste, chair of mathematics at Cornell, called Dynkin “a worldwide leader in probability theory and a superb lecturer who dazzled a generation of students.” Dynkin joined Cornell’s faculty in 1977 after entering the U.S. the year before. He retired in 2010.
Fifty-three years prior to joining Cornell’s faculty, Evgenii Borisovich Dynkin was born in Leningrad (the Soviet-era name for St. Petersburg), where “he suffered greatly under the oppressive Stalinist regime,” a press release said.
During his childhood, his family was forced to move south of the USSR, to the nation of Kazakhstan. Dynkin’s father “disappeared,” an event that would go on to shape the rest of Dynkin’s life.
“Every step in my professional career was difficult because the fate of my father, in combination with my Jewish origin, made me permanently undesirable for the party authorities at the university,” he once said, referring to his time at Moscow State University.
He called his acceptance into the university at age 16 “almost a miracle,” a press release said.
Most of Dynkin’s career was devoted to probability theory — his 1959 book “Foundations of the Theory of Markov Processes,” “which describes a series of random events in which the future depends only on the present and not on previous events,” is still considered a fundamental text, according to a university press release.
In 1993, Dynkin was awarded the “Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement” from the American Mathematical Society for his contributions to two areas of mathematics, as well as “his production of outstanding research students” in both the United States and Russia, a press release said.
Services for the professor that taught students in Ithaca for over 30 years were held on Nov. 18. Dynkin is survived by his wife, Irene; a daughter, Olga Barel; as well as three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.