Artifact Details


Garabedian, Paul SIAM oral history

Catalog Number





2004-11-14; 2005-05-02


Davis, Philip, Interviewer
Garabedian, Paul, Interviewee


SIAM and U.S. Department of Energy

Place of Publication

New York, New York, United States


28 p.



Copyright Holder

Computer History Museum


Paul Garabedian talks with Phil Davis about a range of topics, both mathematical and personal, in this two-part interview. Garabedian grew up in an academic family: his father earned a PhD in mathematics at Harvard under G.D. Birkhoff and his mother had a Masters in history from the same institution. His father passed on his two passions, music and mathematics, to Paul, and encouraged him to consider a career in mathematics as early as age ten.

After initially being rejected from Harvard as a sixteen year old, Garabedian instead attended Brown, which boasted a world-class faculty, including R.G.D. Richardson, Jacob Tamarkin, and William Feller. It was at Brown that Garabedian met his longtime (and current) colleague and collaborator, Frances Bauer, who was dating Garabedian's lab instructor in physics, Louis Bauer. Garabedian eventually made it to Harvard, receiving his PhD there for work he did under Lars Ahlfors on Szegö kernel functions and Robinson’s conjecture. Garabedian also worked extensively with Max Schiffer, however, and learned much from his role facilitating communications between the two men. He then went to Stanford, where he worked on a grant secured by Al Bowker. Garabedian brought Schiffer and Stefan Bergman to Stanford as well. He left several years later for the Courant Institute, where he has remained ever since.

Garabedian has worked in numerous areas, including transonic flow, which was spurred by questions from David Young at Ramo-Woolridge, which was working on ICBMs. He attributes part of his early success to the work of his first wife, Gladys, who was a programmer that went on to have a long career at IBM. Indeed, Garabedian tells about how he didn't realize that creating a program that worked first time around was a very unusual outcome. He has also worked on the Bieberbach Conjecture. Garabedian attributes his success to luck and lots of hard work. He has had a number of outstanding students, whom he credits for contributing to his success, especially during the 1970s and 1980s. Garabedian also remarks that teaching is crucial to his productivity in research. Davis and Garabedian briefly discuss a mutual acquaintance, Clifford Gardner.

Besides mathematics, Garabedian is also a skilled pianist, though he believes that he was not talented enough to make a successful career in music the way he did in math. He is deeply disappointed with the current state of the public school system, especially music education, which Garabedian believes is at least as important as instruction in mathematics.




Complex analysis; Bierberbach conjecture; Hydrodynamics; Shock wave; Transonic flow; Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD); Fusion

Collection Title

Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) oral history collection


Gift of SIAM and the US Department of Energy

Lot Number