Section 4.6 Profile: James Alexander Shohat (1886-1944)
James A. Shohat (show-hot) was one of several émigrés to settle in the Philadelphia area. Born in Brest-Litovsk, Russia, on November 18, 1886, he earned two degrees from the University of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). The first, an equivalent of our bachelors degree, was awarded in 1910. Shohat was a Fellow there from 1912 to 1916, and from 1913 to 1917 he was an instructor at the Polytechnic Institute of Petrograd. The next year he was an instructor at the Mining Institute of Petrograd. Then he accepted a professorship at Ural University in Ekatherineburg, where he remained until 1921, when he returned to Petrograd as a professor at the Pedagogical Institute. He was awarded the degree of Magister of Pure Mathematics, the equivalent of our Ph.D., in 1922.
Shohat came to the United States the following year. After spending 1923- 1924 as an assistant at the University of Chicago, he moved to the University of Michigan as an assistant professor, a post he held until 1929. Although he became a naturalized citizen that year, he moved to Paris for one year to conduct research at the Institut Henri Poincaré.
James Shohat came to the Philadelphia area in 1930 when J. R. Kline, the head of the department at the University of Pennsylvania, hired him as a lecturer. That fall Shohat delivered an invited lecture at the annual meeting of the Philadelphia Section. The following year he was promoted to assistant professor at Penn, where he spent the rest of his career, being promoted to associate professor in 1935 and professor in 1942.
Throughout the 1930s Shohat delivered four invited talks to the Philadelphia Section. He also presented two invited AMS 1 lectures, in September 1934 in Williamstown and in April 1936 in New York. The first was titled, “On the expansion of functions in series of orthogonal polynomials” and the second “The characterization of a distribution function through its moments”. He was the only invited speaker at the annual 1934 summer meeting of the AMS 2 held at Williams College.
Shohat published numerous important memoirs and one book (written with J. D. Tamarkin) on orthogonal polynomials. He wrote several in French for Comptes Revues and Russian for Matematica Sbornik, reviewed many articles for Zentralblatt, and translated works from Russian. He served as an associate editor for the Duke Mathematical Journal since its inception in 1935; he was also an associate editor for the Bulletin of the AMS 3 .
Shohat resided on Eagle Road in the Manoa section of Upper Darby. He was a member of the Orthodox Greek Church there.
In July 1944 Shohat came down with a case of pneumonia that developed heart problems that caused his death on October 8, 1944, at age 57. He was survived by his wife of 22 years, Nadiashda Galli-Shohat, who had received her Ph.D. in physics from Göttingen in 1914 and who had taught at Bryn Mawr as well as several other colleges.