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Joseph L. Doob

  • National Medal of Science
  • Mathematics And Computer Science

In recognition of his work on probability and mathematical statistics, characterized by novel and fruitful ideas of a general character that opened new fields of study which began to be transplanted abroad and now are acclaimed worldwide.

Joseph Doob’s tireless work to establish and develop probability as a branch of mathematics made him one of the world’s most influential mathematicians.

Born in Cincinnati, Doob earned a doctorate from Harvard University in 1932 and, after post-doctoral studies at Columbia and Princeton universities, joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 1935. Save for a stint as a consultant for the U.S. Navy during World War II, Doob remained at Illinois until his retirement in 1978.

Doob wrote a series of papers on probability, and published a book, “Stochastic Processes,’’ in 1953. That book would become the seminal text of probability theory. After his retirement, Doob wrote two additional books, “Classical Potential Theory and its Probabilistic Counterpart,’’ and “Measure Theory,’’ which was published in 1993.

Doob was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the French Academy of Sciences. He also served a stint as president of the American Mathematical Society, and received the society’s Steele Prize in 1984.

An avid hiker, Doob was also active for decades in the Champaign-Urbana Saturday Hike group.

By Robert Warren