My colleague Mort Kamien passed away last week.
I first met Mort in 1997 when I was on the job market. I had encountered his work much earlier as an undergraduate via his textbook Dynamic Optimization, co-authored with Nancy Schwartz. It is always a great event when you meets someone whose work you know from undergraduate education – such work automatically rises to the classic level. So, it was a privledge to meet Mort then and to become his colleague.
On a personal level, what I will remember about Mort is his humor. He grew up in Brooklyn and I had only come across people like him in Woody Allen movies. He was an exotic creature to someone who grew up in England. He was always interested in what the young people were doing research-wise. He would always ask me about my kids and how my wife, Anna, was doing in her work.
On the research side, Mort had great taste. He could judge research and people very well. He always wanted to hire according to the “best athlete” criterion rather than pick a field and then have that constrain your choices. He valued creativity and said it was better to write the first paper in a field rather than the final word. I guess I have these values because of him.
I an in England as I write this. My thoughts are with his wife and son.