Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More Memories

Please feel free to leave your remembrances of Herb below - no registration is required to leave comments.

Note: In order to make it easier for visitors to read all of the comments that others have left, I have changed settings to allow comment posting on this entry only. Comments left on the earlier blog entries have been re-posted here.



Saleh said...

Very sorry to hear about Herb's passing away. I recall meeting him for the first time in March 1979 while I was participating in Claremont Math Clinic. When I came to Caltech to see the place as a prospective grad student, I was impressed by his friendliness and accessibility and decided to come to Caltech. Earlier, I had read his book on numerical analysis with Isaacson, which was very valuable to my training. He was also on my dissertation committee and met him innumerable times when I used to visit Philip (Saffman) often in the late eightees and early 90s.

My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

Saleh Tanveer

Originally posted: February 6, 2008 3:33 PM

Anonymous said...

I feel very sad to hear about Herb's death. I was his student in the mid seveties and I only have good memories of him; he was patient and extremely kind to me. We collaborated for some time and I was always motivated by his enthusiasm.
He visited Venezuela several times where we enjoy the beach, hiking and partying together.

My warm condolences to his family and friends.

Marianela Lentini-Gil

Originally posted: February 7, 2008 6:27 AM

Pelley Brown, Philadelphia said...

Although I had not seen Herb for many years (he was my uncle by marriage), I always thought of him as someone who was invincible. From my childhood I remember him as a thinker, an intellect with a keen sense of humor, and someone who definitely was an individualist. He was warm, charming, always interesting to talk to, and someone whose company all the members of my family enjoyed immensely. It always gave us a thrill to know that he was such a giant in his field. But to us, he was just our engaging, amusing Uncle Herb, who had a piercing wit and a warm smile for my sister, Barbara, my brother Herb, and me. I am sad to know that he is gone. I send my deepest sympathies to Debra and Steve and their children, all of whom he loved dearly, and the community of which he was so much a part.

Originally posted: February 7, 2008 8:54 AM

Carl said...

I've lost a friend, colleague, and mentor. 30 years ago Herb went out of his way to help me with my career. I still give his Tata notes to my students to read.

I'll share one story. 25+ years ago Dwight Decker, a student of Herbs, and I were junior faculty thinking of pursuing the NSF supercomputer support. Herb was visiting us at the time and grew bored with our hesitation. So, while sitting in my office, he called the program director and said "Hi, this is Herb Keller. Tim Kelley wants to talk to you." and handed me the phone.

We got the support.

Thanks, Herb. I am not the only one whose life and career are better because we knew you.

-- Tim Kelley
North Carolina State University

Anonymous said...

It's impossible to think of Herb Keller without smiling, even in this sad time. I met him in 1962 when I was a beginning graduate student at the Courant Institute. Besides being one of the leaders in our field, he had a unique style and personality that added to his influence in the community. I saw him at the AMS meeting in San Diego a week before the end. He was the same charmer, full of energy, listening to an interesting talk by Kevrekidis which used a lot of his old work. We all miss Herb.

Stan Osher

Anonymous said...

We will miss him.
Our deepest sympathy.
Marty Apple
Council of Scientific Society Presidents

Anonymous said...

my condolences to the applied math group for Herb. I saw him last summer, and he looked quite well. I am really sorry to hear about him. Besides everything else, he was a fun guy.

Javier Jimenez
E.T.S. Ingenieros Aeronauticos

Anonymous said...

I always smile when I think about Herb.

He was so enthusiastic. I remember when he broke his collarbone (bike vs. truck -- truck wins) and still showed up at the department. He was wincing from pain and laughing and exploring our reasoning all at the same time.
I chose him as my adviser and 15 years later find myself being careful so that he doesn't ask me, "What do you mean by that?", or perhaps a more difficult question. I admired his willingness to own who he was and assert himself in contexts where it might not even be popular.
Interestingly enough, he respected others when they asserted themselves also, even when he thought they were wrong.
I hope to keep my life as full as he did, but I doubt I'll keep up with his standards. I will miss knowing that his enthusiasm and character are part of the students' experience. I am sad for the loss and happy with the memories. I hope his friends, family, and colleagues will find their ways through their grief. I'm going to dust off my bike and ride it around town. Or perhaps try to prove that this common approximation of light extinction is convergent.

- Andrew Conley (PhD, 1994)

Bengt said...

Shocked and saddened. Herb was a unique friend. Like so many others, I owe much of my career to Herb (in my case, as my mentor and colleague for 10 years at Caltech Applied Math). His work - like his perspective on life and everything else - will forever remain inspirational.

Bengt Fornberg

Anonymous said...

I was at the dept of applied math (in those days AMa) at CalTech from 1969-73 as a graduate student (of Paco Lagerstrom) and as a post doc. I have wonderful memories of Herb who was a very fine teacher and a very good person, although I did not know him as well as his own students. We (Tom Stevens, Jim Boa and other mates) used to refer to his classes as "happy Herbie time"! I also had the pleasure of playing tennis with him on some occasions.

In recent years I had sadly lost contact with him and many of my old profs at CalTech, but that, I suppose is the nature of life.

I am sad to learn of his passing. Thank you very much for letting me know, it was a very kind and thoughtful act.

Best regards,


(A Thyagaraja)

Achi said...

Remembering Herb -
enjoying vivid memories of his cheerful company,
many witty, always challenging sharp comments,
his tireless enthusiasm for real applicable mathematics,
charming smile,
the spark in his eyes.

Remembering Herb, and missing him.

Achi Brandt

Robert McLachlan said...

I was very surprised and sorry to hear of Herb's death and also sorry that I hadn't seen him for a few years. I was his student from 1985-90 - at the time, I was worried that he would die cycling before I could graduate! In my ignorance as a student, I had no way to place the many things he told me about in a proper context - two point boundary value problems? continuation? the Keller box scheme? Forgive me, but they seemed old-fashioned, or perhaps not central. Now I realize that the things he chose to work on have all turned out to be extremely fundamental and important, surely the essence of scientific insight. I have even worked on the Keller box scheme myself (and he was pleased to hear it!)

I am very much looking forward to reading the detailed scientific biographies that will appear in due course, especially as Herb was a direct link to the very dawn of scientific computing.

Robert McLachlan

Massey University, New Zealand

Anonymous said...

I was shocked with the news. He was in such good shape.

Herb played a very important role in my career. He was a wonderful mentor and teacher who had the wonderful ability to simplify mathematical problems to forms that engineers could easily understand and apply to their work. He will be greatly missed.

Tuncer Cebeci

Alan Heirich said...

I'm really sorry that Herb is gone. He meant a lot to me personally. Although I don't think the term "paternal" is quite right he was in some ways like my father while I was at Caltech. Some of the ultimate peak experiences of my life occurred while working with Herb on simulating Taylor-Couette flow and listening to him talk during meetings of his research group. I feel that's where my real Caltech education took place.

Hector D. Ceniceros said...

I am very saddened to hear about Herb's passing away whom I admired and respected deeply. His irradiant energy was contagious. Just last fall, while I was visiting Caltech, I would see him at the gym, working out, nearly every time I went there and always greeted me with a smile. He made me feel welcome during the time I spent at caltech, as a visiting grad student, as a postdoc, and as visiting faculty.

My warmest condolences to his family and friends

Hector D. Ceniceros

Francisco Domínguez-Mota said...

This is very very bad news. I met Professor Keller last octuber in Cumaná, Venezuela. We were both attending a conference on the occasion of Victor Pereyra's 70th anniversary. I was deeply impressed by the friendliness and accessibility of such a renown researcher.
I will always keep in my heart that very nice conference, where Gene Golub was also present, as well as a couple of stories regarding a missing american passport and some photos we were about to exchange with Profr. Keller.
My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
Francisco Domínguez-Mota.
Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo.
Morelia, Michoacán, México.

Anonymous said...

From a message to ACM's Sheila Shull from
Fausto Milinazzo
Computer Science, UVic

I have just heard the sad news that Herb passed away. I guess that we are all getting older, but in my mind Herb was going to live forever as long as he managed to avoid bike accidents! Herb was always very kind to me on my stays in the department - even when I was too thick to understand what he was explaining.

As you know better that most, he was a character. There are many stories, but the one that I recall goes back to when I first arrived at Caltech. Bengt Fornberg and I had been invited to a gathering for George Batchelor at Saffman's. We wondered whether we should wear ties. We made the mistake of asking Herb. He assured us that no one wears ties in California. Needless to say, Herb, Bengt, and I were the only ones not wearing ties.

Anonymous said...

I was one of Herb's post-docs in 1977-78. When I arrived at Caltech, a rich new world opened. Much of that was due to Herb. He was a great leader of his group of coworkers, warm and understanding. Many times I appreciated his ability of giving clues and bringing things to the point; both in mathematical problem solving and in human relations. Whenever a discussion in our working group was on the verge of becoming aggressive and the atmosphere just started to become tense, Herb made a short remark about the situation, just one sentence -- and
everybody laughed and was relaxed again.

I did study in Göttingen for two years. I knew the German versions of the books by Courant. But `the spirit of Göttingen', Courant and the other German emigrants as human beings, I met mostly through Herb. In his way of doing mathematics, in his many stories and anecdotes from NYU. Many of these stories he told in his office, under Loretta's painting of Richard Courant. It seems closer to life than the photographs. Herb: `Loretta painted him not the way he looked, but the way he should have looked. Because Courant used to say that stories should not be told the way they happened, but the way they should have happened'. I don't know if Courant did, but Herb definitely did tell his stories that way.

My warm condolences to his family and friends. We all miss him.

Rita Meyer-Spasche

Ali Bouaricha said...

Herb's contribution to the applied math world was gigantic!
Very sad to learn about his passing. My condoleances to his family.