Celebratio Mathematica

Benedict H. Gross

Recollections of Dick Gross

by Neal Koblitz

I met Dick Gross in the late 1970s, when I was a Pierce in­struct­or at Har­vard and he was one of John Tate’s star PhD stu­dents. We were part of a lively com­munity of gradu­ate stu­dents and postdocs who col­lab­or­ated in teach­ing and re­search, as well as things non­mathem­at­ic­al. The cul­min­a­tion of my math­em­at­ic­al con­ver­sa­tions with Dick was the \( p \)-ad­ic for­mula for Gauss sums.1

Dick would of­ten pre­face a math­em­at­ic­al ques­tion with a de­fer­en­tial com­ment such as “I know al­most noth­ing about this,” and it would in­vari­ably turn out that he knew more about it than I did. In those years he already had a repu­ta­tion as an ex­cel­lent teach­er, even at the ele­ment­ary level, and his lec­tures on re­search were su­perb. At the time he was my fa­vor­ite counter­example to the claim by some math edu­cat­ors that top re­search­ers make ter­rible teach­ers. (Of course, his thes­is ad­viser was an­oth­er fam­ous counter­example.) Dick was also a great ra­con­teur, and some of his stor­ies were hil­ari­ous.

Our paths haven’t crossed much in re­cent dec­ades, but I still have vivid memor­ies of the days when Dick was at the cen­ter of our group of young math­em­aticians at Har­vard.

Neal Kob­litz re­ceived his Ph.D. from Prin­ceton in 1974, and since 1979 has been at the Uni­versity of Wash­ing­ton in Seattle. He is co-in­vent­or of El­lipt­ic Curve Cryp­to­graphy.