Skip to main content

EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 6.10 Profile: Albert Wilansky

Albert Wilansky has been one of the most active members of the Philadelphia/EPADEL Section. Born in 1921 in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Wilansky remained in Canada for his undergraduate education, his first degree being an M.A. from Dalhousie University in 1944. He then enrolled in the graduate program at Brown University and received his Ph.D. under C. R. Adams three years later for a dissertation titled, “Application of Banach linear functionals to summability”.
Wilansky is mostly known as “Tommy”. The origin of this name is obscure; his family thinks it is due to the name of the doctor who delivered him. In 1947 Tommy Wilansky married Ruth Leah Paton, whom he had met at Dalhousie University. They had two daughters, Eleanor and Laura. His daughter Eleanor Myers is a professor at the Temple University School of Law who received a Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2001.
Wilansky came to Lehigh in 1948 and has remained there ever since, retiring officially in 1992. He was the university’s Distinguished Professor of Mathematics for the final 14 years of his tenure. During his 44 years at Lehigh he was a Fulbright visiting professor several times, at universities in Reading (1972- 1973), London (1973), Tel Aviv (1981), and Berne (1981). Outside of academia he was a consultant for the Frankford Arsenal for the year 1957-1958.
Wilansky published numerous papers in analysis (especially summability), linear topological spaces, Banach algebras, and functional analysis. He is also the author of several books in these fields. His first, Functional Analysis, appeared in 1964. Three years later a book based on lecture notes from a graduate course he offered, Topics in Functional Analysis, was published by one of his doctoral students, William D. Laverell. Wilansky’s Topology for Analysis was first published in 1970; the second edition appeared in 1983. His Modern Methods in Topological Vector Spaces appeared in 1978. A manuscript stored in the library at Lehigh indicates that the intended title of this work was going to be Topological Vector Spaces. As the author stated, “It will continue to say ‘Modern’ forever.” Wilansky’s last book appeared in 1984, Summability Through Functional Analysis.
In addition to this prodigious output, Albert Wilansky directed 20 doctoral dissertations between 1958 and 1980, an average of almost one a year. Two of his students, James Crawford (Lafayette) and Peter Jessup (Ursinus), have also been active members of this section, a wonderful gift handed down from their mentor.
Wilansky has been active in sectional affairs in various ways. For one, he served as chair of the section for 1956-1957. For another, he holds the record for delivering the most invited lectures to the section, five, over a span of 34 years (1950, 1956, 1963, 1970, and 1983). In 1969 the MAA presented him its prestigious Ford Award for a paper he published in Mathematics Magazine. Today these awards recognize authors of articles of expository excellence published in the Monthly, but up to \(1976\) articles could have been published in Mathematics Magazine as well. Since then, the Allendoerfer Awards – named after another EPADEL leader – recognize outstanding papers written in the latter journal.
In 1969, after the death of his first wife, Wilansky married Rose Kutler, and together they raised her three children – Kathy, Leslie and Carole. All three live close to Bethlehem, where he currently resides. Since Wilansky’s retirement in 1992, he has been deeply involved in the lives of his eight grandchildren, and has maintained an active worldwide correspondence with many children of his five brothers and sisters.