In memoriam: Barth Pollak, professor emeritus of mathematics

Author: Dennis Brown

Barth And Eleanor Pollak January 2023
Barth Pollak and his daughter Eleanor, January 2023

Barth Pollak, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Notre Dame, died Feb. 17 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was 94.

Born and raised in Chicago, Pollak earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). With a fellowship from the National Science Foundation, he received his doctorate from Princeton University, and then served on the mathematics panel of the Scientific Advisory Board for the National Security Agency.

Pollak then served on the mathematics faculties at IIT and Syracuse University before coming to Notre Dame in 1963, where he spent 37 years teaching and conducting research on arithmetic theory of quadratic forms, classical groups and algebraic number theory. 

“Barth and I were colleagues and friends for six decades,” John Derwent, associate professor emeritus of mathematics, said. “He loved mathematics and teaching and hated administration. Most of all he loved his wife, Helen, and his children Martin and Eleanor, both of whom have had distinguished careers in medicine.”

Pollak received the Rev. James L. Shilts, C.S.C./Doris and Gene Leonard Teaching Award from the College of Science in 1993 for excellence in teaching at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Pollak was preceded in death by his wife and is survived by his son and daughter, their spouses and two grandsons. An online service in celebration of his life will take place this spring.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations in Pollak’s honor be made to Math Circles of Chicago.