History of Numerical Analysis


Oral Histories





Paul Garabedian

Oral History (pdf)

Interviewer: Philip Davis

Paul Garabedian talks with Phil Davis about a range of topics, both mathematical and personal, in this two-part interview.  Garabedian grew up in an academic family: his father earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at Harvard under G.D. Birkhoff and his mother had a Masters in history from the same institution.  His father passed on his two passions, music and mathematics, to Paul, and encouraged him to consider a career in mathematics as early as age ten.

After initially being rejected from Harvard as a sixteen year old, Garabedian instead attended Brown, which boasted a world-class faculty, including R.G.D. Richardson and William Feller.  It was at Brown that Garabedian met his longtime (and current) colleague and collaborator, Frances Bauer.  Garabedian eventually made it to Harvard, receiving his PhD there for work he did under Lars Ahlfors on Szegö kernel functions and Robinson’s conjecture.  Garabedian also worked extensively with Max Schiffer, however, and learned much from his role facilitating communications between the two men.  He then went to Stanford, where he worked on a grant secured by Al Bowker.  Garabedian brought Schiffer and Stefan Bergman to Stanford as well.  He left several years later for the Courant Institute, where he has remained ever since.

Garabedian has worked in numerous areas, including transonic flow, which was spurred by questions from David Young at Ramo-Woolridge, which was working on ICBMs.  He attributes part of his early success to the work of his first wife, Gladys, who was a programmer that went on to have a long career at IBM.  Indeed, Garabedian tells about how he didn't realize that creating a program that worked first time around was a very unusual outcome.  He has also worked on the Bieberbach Conjecture. Garabedian attributes his success to luck and lots of hard work.  He has had a number of outstanding students, whom he credits for contributing to his success, especially during the 1970s and 1980s.  Garabedian also remarks that teaching is crucial to his productivity in research.  Davis and Garabedian briefly discuss a mutual acquaintance, Clifford Gardner.

Key words: complex analysis, Bierberbach conjecture, hydrodynamics, shock waves, transonic flow, magneto-hydrodynamics, fusion

Funding Agency: Office of Naval Research

Time frame:  1940's, 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's

People: G.D. Birkhoff, R.G.D. Richardson, Lars Ahlfors, Max Schiffer, Stefan Bergman, Henry L. Garabedian, Garrett Birkhoff, Carl de Boor, Gladys Garabedian, Walter Gautschi, Al Bowker, David Young, Clifford Gardner, J. J. Stoker, Eleazer Bromberg, David Korn, Octavio Betancourt, Frances Bauer, Hassler Whitney

Location: Brown University, Harvard University, Stanford University, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, Ramo-Woolridge Corporation

Citation: Paul Garabedian, Oral history interview by Philip Davis, 14 November, 2004  and 2 May, 2005, Courant Institute. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Philadelphia, PA


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