A Mathematician’s Birthday

When a mathematician turns 60, a big party is thrown for them in the form of a conference.  What could be better than a week of  talks centered around the theme “of interest to you.”  Then, every 10 years, you get another big party.  If you are important enough, the parties will continue even after you pass away.

Last year, I attended my first birthday party.  It was the 100th birthday of the (late) A.D. Alexandroff.  Actually, there were two conferences in honor of his birthday, one in Yaroslavl’ and one in St. Petersburg.  Most of the presenters in St. Petersburg began their talk with a funny anecdote about him.  For me, it was neat to get an idea of what his personality was like.

This year, I am back in Yaroslavl’ to celebrate Nikolay’s 70th birthday.  Well, his 70th un-birthday.  He says it’s bad luck to wish him a happy birthday before his actual birthday.  According to him, this is not his birthday party, this is a conference on Geometry, Topology, and Applications.  He can keep telling himself that, but we are all here to celebrate his birthday with him.  Nikolay is the academic son of Boris Delaunay, a very famous mathematician.  When I was in Nikolay’s office last year and learned that one of the cabinets was from Delaunay’s office, I touched it for good luck.

Last year, when I was in Russia for a month, the Russian hosts were extremely welcoming.  They escorted us from the airport to the train, and had someone waiting at our train door when we stepped off the train.  They even took us on a day excursion to Myshkin (mouse town).  While everyone was quite welcoming and eager to show us Russia, Nikolay is one of the most enthusiastic hosts.  He picked up Jeff from the airport last year at 2 or 3 in the morning, then drove him around Moscow showing him all of the sites.  When they returned to the Steklov institute where we were all staying, the guard had gone to bed.  So, Nikolay started to climb into the guard’s bedroom window.  Jeff, jet-lagged and confused, barely had the time to react to the situation.  Luckily, I think the guard woke up and let them in before Nikolay climbed all the way in the window.

So, I have now arrived in Yaroslavl’ and am excited to spend the week with a group of great mathematicians.  Oh, and drink some horseradish-flavored vodka.

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2 Responses to “A Mathematician’s Birthday”

  1. Michael Says:

    Make sure to buy a coke at that kiosk…and say hi to the lady from me! Have a fun time!

    • bfasy Says:

      Oh, I will. I now know just to yell at her from the start and act all angry. For some reason, that makes her less agitated. Btw, I went to the Georgian place for dinner tonight!

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