Celebratio Mathematica

Paul T. Bateman

Number theory  ·  UIUC


by Harold G. Diamond

Paul Tre­vi­er Bate­man was born in Phil­adelphia, on June 6, 1919, and he died on Decem­ber 26, 2012 in Urb­ana, Illinois. He was an im­port­ant fig­ure in 20th cen­tury ana­lyt­ic num­ber the­ory, a lead­er of the Amer­ic­an Math­em­at­ic­al So­ci­ety (AMS), and a long-time de­part­ment head of the Math­em­at­ics De­part­ment of the Uni­versity of Illinois at Urb­ana–Cham­paign (UIUC). Paul was a mem­ber of the AMS for 71 years and of the Lon­don Math­em­at­ic­al So­ci­ety for 64 years.

Paul was the son of Anna and Har­old Bate­man. He was raised in Phil­adelphia, where his fath­er did elec­tric­al and heat­ing work. Har­old Bate­man was re­membered as a kind and help­ful per­son; at his fu­ner­al the min­is­ter said that when you bor­rowed a ham­mer from Har­old, you got Har­old as well.

After at­tend­ing Up­per Mo­re­land High School, Paul went to the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania, both as an un­der­gradu­ate and gradu­ate stu­dent. Dur­ing World War II, his stud­ies were in­ter­rup­ted when, as a con­scien­tious ob­ject­or, he worked in a men­tal hos­pit­al. Asked how safe it was to be sur­roun­ded by de­ranged people, Paul brushed off the ques­tion with a re­min­is­cence. Once, when he found him­self at­tacked, he quickly re­called that an­oth­er in­mate had earli­er de­cided that Paul was his son. Paul dragged him­self and his at­tack­er over to his “fath­er,” who poun­ded the at­tack­er un­til he re­leased Paul.

Paul earned his Ph.D. in 1946 un­der the dir­ec­tion of Hans Rademach­er. After hold­ing post-doc­tor­al po­s­i­tions at Yale and the In­sti­tute for Ad­vanced Study, Paul came to UIUC in 1950 and re­mained there un­til his re­tire­ment in 1989. He was act­ive un­til the last year of his life.

Paul met his fu­ture wife, Fe­lice Dav­id­son, also a math­em­atician, while he was at Yale and she at Rut­gers. They mar­ried in 1948 and lived to­geth­er for 64 years; Fe­lice died with­in 6 weeks of Paul. Their daugh­ter, Sally, was born in Urb­ana and con­tin­ues to live there. The couple shared in­terests in clas­sic­al mu­sic and op­era, and they loved to travel, par­tic­u­larly spend­ing sum­mers in the moun­tains of Col­or­ado. The Bate­mans did everything to­geth­er: in ad­di­tion to their go­ing to­geth­er to all con­fer­ences, both would speak in­to the phone at the same time, they would split a cup of cof­fee in a res­taur­ant, etc.

Paul had a bril­liant memory — names of people, mu­sic scores, for­eign lan­guages, places vis­ited, stor­ies — they all stuck. At a be­gin­ning-of-the-year party, with some 30 new math­em­aticians and wives present, Paul knew the name of every­one. Everything Paul en­countered re­minded him of something. Of greatest pro­fes­sion­al use, he was a walk­ing en­cyc­lo­pe­dia; those who wanted in­form­a­tion about a per­son, pa­per, event (or most any oth­er mat­ter) turned first to Paul.

Paul main­tained a large world­wide net­work of col­leagues who re­turned to cam­pus reg­u­larly, in­clud­ing Hubert Delange from France; John Sel­fridge, from Urb­ana, Ann Ar­bor and DeKalb; Paul Er­dős from all over; and many former stu­dents.

In ad­di­tion to aca­dem­ics, the Bate­mans con­trib­uted to life in the Illinois Math De­part­ment in many ways. There were, for ex­ample, in­tra­mur­al sports, in­clud­ing the P. T. Bat­men Soft­ball Team and the cross-coun­try com­pet­i­tion in which the Math Run­ners spor­ted bright or­ange Math Re­views T-shirts and which ended with a din­ner at the Bate­mans’ home. Then, there was the coveted award for the most tardy sub­mis­sion of term grades. The “prize” was to buy a round of beer after the first col­loqui­um of the next term. It was ori­gin­ally called the Sel­fridge Award, after its first win­ner, but soon after Paul won the prize, and it was re­named the Bate­man–Sel­fridge Award. Later, in hon­or of the reign­ing pope, it was re-re­named the John-Paul Award.

Paul or­gan­ized and pro­moted Illinois num­ber the­ory con­fer­ences, first as re­gion­al meet­ings and then as fre­quent in­ter­na­tion­al events. In re­cog­ni­tion of his many con­tri­bu­tions, the de­part­ment cel­eb­rated Paul’s 70th birth­day and re­tire­ment with a three-day meet­ing at the Uni­versity of Illinois Con­fer­ence Cen­ter at Al­ler­ton Park. His 90th birth­day also was an oc­ca­sion for an in­ter­na­tion­al meet­ing, and a third such con­fer­ence was held in memory of the Bate­mans and Heini Hal­ber­stam in June 2014.

Paul Bate­man was a fac­ulty mem­ber at the Uni­versity of Illinois for over 60 years. His work dur­ing this time for the Math­em­at­ics De­part­ment, num­ber the­ory, and Amer­ic­an math­em­at­ics helped shape today’s pro­fes­sion. His passing marks the end of an era.