Remarks by Lee Neuwirth about (Doron Zeilberger), David Robbins, and Jim Propp

(There seems to be a lot of energy up here left over from the last speaker.)

It is an honor to participate in this conference, and say a word or two about David.

I would like to modify a quote from Edward O. Wilson’s “On Human Nature”.

He said “Philosophy must not be left in the hands of the merely wise”. I would like to change that to “Mathematics must not be left in the hands of the merely brilliant”. The point is that there is the matter of taste. There are so many choices that must be made when doing mathematics; choice of problem, choice of attack, when to stop going down a particular path, what to ignore, and when a result is obtained how to present it. In all of these David excels, and he has assisted many others in their choices. In my case I know when we have disagreed on a point he was invariably right. Many of us owe a great deal to his taste.

However he is not infallible. He once made a choice which can charitably be called peculiar. As you have heard, he ran for the Princeton School Board…and won. With logic, sense, lack of bias and knowledge, he faced illogic, nonsense, bias, ignorance, and worst, selective deafness. However, he soldiered on through many endless, contentious meetings. Finally there came the vexing issue of The Charter School. I think he met that issue with a characteristic statement. He said, “Let’s put them out of business”. That simple, direct proposal was pure David Robbins. It put forth an idea that was at once a strategy reflecting a positive attitude and a goal. He wanted to make the Princeton Schools so good that no one would go to the Charter School.

In their collective all knowing way the rest of the board paid no attention. Today the Charter School is thriving.

Our next and last speaker seems to be known to 80% of practicing mathematicians. He has many interests on which he has written eloquently. He is going to tell us about a number of connections between Alternating Sign Matrices and other things, some of which are from physics.

Jim Propp