Reminiscences about Professor Ahlswede and a Last Word by Thomas Mann

  • Mike Ulrey


The things I remember best about Professor Ahlswede seem to have a common theme: intense concentration. My most vivid image of him is with a cigarette dangling from his lips as he works on a problem. Such a scene could be in his office, in a hallway of the math building, or in a restaurant. In those clays (late 60’s and early 70’s), one could still smoke freely in most places. As I recall, he smoked some particularly strong English brand of cigarettes. In any case, he concentrated so strongly on the work at hand, that he hardly took ever time to flick his ashes into an ashtray. Instead the cigarette would continue to burn, the ash growing to an impossible length, the smoke curling upwards, his eyes squinting and watering in self-defense. I was amazed at the length of time he could withstand this self-imposed torture, seemingly without being aware of it. I would secretly make wagers with myself about whether or not he would remove the cigarette before the ashes fell. If the ashes won, they might make a few burn marks in the paper on which he wrote. I wonder if the patterns ever gave him any ideas.


Common Theme Outer Space Warm Spring Physical Manifestation Mathematical Interest 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

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  • Mike Ulrey

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