I RECENTLY attended a conference in honor of Ivo Babuska, a professor at the University of Texas, with whom I have written several mathematical papers. There were toasts with a crowd-pleasing (if prudently priced) malbec and puns riffing on “singular value decomposition” that elicited much mirth. After all, it was also Ivo’s 90th-birthday party.
Ivo remains passionately immersed in research, despite the dearly held popular belief that mathematicians are over the hill at 40.
Partly, this cliché stems from the stories about “Mathematician Early Death Syndrome” (MEDS): Galois shot in a duel at 20, Ramanujan felled by illness at 32. Turing waited until almost 42, but made his tragedy more striking by committing suicide.
Clearly, Ivo has survived this fate, by eschewing duels (a hurried exit from Czechoslovakia with his family the week after the Russians invaded in 1968 may have helped), sleeping early (a timer plunges all the rooms of his house into darkness at 10 p.m.) and eating right (who knew dumplings and tongue — which Mrs. Babuska once served me — were so healthy?).
– The New York Times