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Carl Riehm (1935 – 2021)

Carl Riehm (1935 – 2021)

We are saddened by the death of Carl Riehm, a long-time faculty member at McMaster University and a good friend of the Fields Institute, who passed away on March 16, 2021. He was 85.

Carl was a dedicated academic whose interest in algebra and number theory contributed to his prolific, high-caliber research output. Born in Kitchener Ontario, Carl earned a B.A. at the University of Toronto in 1958. He then studied at Princeton University where, in 1961, he received his PhD under the supervision of Tim O’Meara for work on integral representations of quadratic forms.

Carl held a position at McGill University, followed by a professorship at Notre Dame from 1963 until 1972. He was recruited to McMaster from the University of Notre Dame in 1972 to be Department Chair and he remained at McMaster until his retirement in 2000. There, he served as Department Chair from 1972 until 1978.

Carl was instrumental in the formation of the Fields Institute, and ensured that McMaster was fully involved in the Institute from the beginning. In fact, it was Carl’s wife Elaine, later a biographer of John Charles Fields, who provided the suggestion to call the institute after the Canadian mathematician and founder of the Fields Medal. Carl served on the Board of the Institute and after retiring from McMaster, he ran publications at Fields for 13 years as Managing Editor. He was made a Fields Fellow in the inaugural class of Fellows in 2002.

On top of his many achievements, Carl will be most fondly remembered for his kindness and generosity toward those fortunate enough to enter his orbit. A former Fields colleague recalls that Carl was a “prince” who was always an engaging conversationalist. “I always tried to score a seat beside Carl or Elaine at any Fields dinner because I knew we’d have lots to chat about,” she recalls.

True to form, this gregariousness made him a familiar figure at McMaster’s University Club, where he held a prime seat at the “Math Table” and made it his job to know everyone and to connect people. From his seat, Carl would have lunch with and chat with everyone from the most recent hire in the department to the Dean and the upper administration. He remained a mentor and friend to so many throughout his life, taking new recruits out for lunch, a run or a game of squash.

Carl is survived by his wife, Elaine, their sons Derek and Marc, as well as their six grandchildren. The family will organize a celebration of his life this coming fall.Carl Riehm

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McMaster University - Faculty of Science | Math & Stats