March 2009 -

Oded Schramm, 1961-2008

Oded Schramm
Photo courtesy UW Dept.
of Mathematics.
Microsoft researcher and UW Affiliate Professor of Mathematics Oded Schramm fell to his death Sept. 1, 2008, while hiking near Snoqualmie Pass.

At the age of 46, he had already revolutionized the field of mathematical probability. Through his development of a unique equation-which he named stochastic Loewner evolution, but which many in the field now call the Schramm-Loewner Equation-he provided a new way of understanding a vast array of physics problems. Schramm's research earned him numerous awards, including the Erdös Prize in Mathematics, the Salem Prize, the Clay Research Award, the Poincaré Prize, the Loève Prize, the Pólya Prize and the Ostrowski Prize. In 2008, he was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He would almost certainly have won the coveted Fields Medal in 2002 if he had been born just a few weeks later.

"But the Fields Medals, which honor groundbreaking work by young mathematicians, are awarded only once every four years and only to mathematicians who are 40 or under," The New York Times reported in an obituary. "Dr. Schramm was born on Dec. 10, 1961; the cutoff birth date for the 2002 Fields was Jan. 1, 1962."

In addition to being a world-renowned mathematician, Schramm was also an avid mountaineer, snowboarder and unicyclist, whom friends remember not only for his remarkable career but for his humble character. On Nov. 9, the Gerberding bells were rung in Schramm's honor by a trained group of eight, including three of his colleagues and one of his former students. He is survived by his wife and two children.-Ioana Albu