Mark Feshbach

In Memoriam

Mark Feshbach died this past August after a terrible and hard fight with cancer. Mark was born sixty years ago, the son of the famous M.I.T. physics professor Herman Feshbach. He was an undergraduate at Yale, where he met his wife Andrea. He went on to graduate school at Stanford, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1976 under Greg Brumfiel. His thesis contained a brilliant generalization of the classical double coset formula-from homological algebra-to the framework of Lie groups. Mark then went on to Northwestern University where he taught for two years before joining our department in 1978 as an assistant professor. He was promoted first to associate professor and then to full professor in 1988.

In his research Mark seemed to have a knack for homing in on results which were fundamental and of lasting significance. In a number of instances lines of development which Mark started have subsequently been taken up and pursued further by others, but Mark was there first. His thesis work on the Becker-Gottlieb transfer for compact Lie groups is an example of this. So also is his work with Dave Benson on stable splittings of classifying spaces. It is definitive, and paved the way for others (including his student Mike Catalano) who have done further calculations and taken the theory further. Another example is Mark's construction of a transfer map for Hopf algebras in quite general circumstances. He was one of the world experts on group cohomology, making definitive calculations at various stages of his career: for orthogonal groups early on, and more recently for the symmetric groups. Although the cohomology of symmetric groups has been described many times, it is Mark's approach which recently has inspired others to go further. It was also Mark who identified the role of 'essential elements' in group cohomology, a concept which is seen as fundamental. Mark was an excellent collaborator, working jointly with Stewart Priddy, Bernard Badzioch, Len Evens, Jean Lannes and Sasha Voronov.

Mark had two students: Mike Catalano and James Swenson. He spent the two years 2007 - 2009 serving as program officer in the section on geometry and topology in the mathematical sciences division at the National Science Foundation in Washington DC. He traveled extensively, including visits to Sherbrooke (Canada), and several trips to Mexico, China and France. He signed on to be the director of undergraduate studies our department, starting in June, 2010, and, even while battling his illness, was actively involved in running and revamping the undergraduate program.

Mark and his wife Andrea were married for more than 30 years. They had two children, Rachel and David, now young adults on their way to becoming young professional people. They shared many interests in common, including cooking, music, Siberian huskies, the Yale alumni association, the Shir Tikvah synagogue,... The bar and bat mitzvahs of the children were joyous family events. Mark is sorely missed by family, friends and colleagues.

A Memorial Fund for graduate student fellowships in mathematics has been established in Mark's honor.