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News Release

December 21, 2007


Dan Stober, News Service: (650) 721-6965;

Sam Karlin, influential math professor, dead at 83

Samuel Karlin, a Stanford professor emeritus of mathematics whose math skills were important to early efforts at genome sequencing, died Dec. 18 at Stanford Hospital after a massive heart attack. He was 83.

Mathematics Department Chair Rafe Mazzeo said Karlin, though frail in recent years, kept up his habit of hard work "until the end."

Karlin was born in Yanovo, Poland, in 1924. He earned his PhD from Princeton as a student of Salomon Bochner in 1947, and was on the faculty at Caltech from 1948 to 1956 before coming to Stanford. He made fundamental contributions to mathematical economics, bioinformatics, probability, evolutionary theory, biomolecular sequence analysis and a field of matrix study known as "total positivity."

"He was a real pioneer in applying mathematics to genome sequencing," Mazzeo said.

Karlin was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1989. He was the author of 10 books and more than 450 articles.

He is survived by his wife, Dorit; his children, Anna, Kenneth and Manuel; and eight grandchildren: Sophie, Matthew, Rebecca, Dan, Ben, Julia, Sarah and Zvi.

A memorial service is scheduled to be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13, in the Oak Room at Tresidder Union on the Stanford campus.



Rafe Mazzeo, Department of Mathematics: (650) 723-1894,

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