SIAM News Blog

A SIAM President Remembers I.E. Block

By Bob O'Malley

I was very involved with SIAM, and its meetings, publications, and promotion of applied mathematics, from my earliest postdoctoral appointment in 1966 through serving as president in 1990–91. SIAM had great leaders, including presidents Dick DiPrima (1979-80), Hirsh Cohen (1983-84), Ivar Stakgold (1989-90), and Avner Friedman (1993-94), among many others, before and since. But it was Ed Block who year after year worked harder than anyone else developing an unending sequence of journals, meetings, book series, activity groups, and international collaborations.

As the host society for ICIAM 1991, held in Washington, DC, SIAM faced countless organizational challenges. Ed Block and Bob O’Malley made headway on some of them during a working session at the 1990 SIAM Annual Meeting.
Ed had a Harvard PhD, experience with early computer manufacturers, and the drive to do everything well. He served as SIAM’s managing director, unofficially and officially, for forty years. One consequence is that our applied math society remains based in Philadelphia. The organization grew and prospered, along with applied mathematics in universities and industry. Ed developed a large dedicated staff, drew lots of talented members to the Council and Board, and drove increasing interactions with Washington and other professional societies in the math sciences and beyond.

My most intense joint effort with Ed concerned the second ICIAM meeting, held in Washington, DC, in 1991. As the program chair, I made many trips to Philadelphia to do detailed planning. I often stayed at Ed’s home, and we would use Entertainment coupons to cut meal costs in half. The meeting was a big success scientifically, twice the size of any SIAM annual meeting. As usual, Ed took the pictures, scheduled meetings with all those who could provide input regarding his latest ideas for projects, and knew who hadn’t paid the registration fee. By this time, he could no longer proofread all the individual journal articles, but he still got involved in planning and writing for the next issue of SIAM News.

Ed’s family has suggested that memorial contributions be made to SIAM to endow the I.E. Block Community Lecture. They knew how much this would mean to him.

Bob O’Malley, a past president of SIAM, is professor emeritus of applied mathematics at the University of Washington.

blog comments powered by Disqus