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Professor Nesmith Ankeny dies

A memorial service will be held September 11 in Walla Walla, WA, for Dr. Nesmith C. Ankeny, professor emeritus of mathematics, who died in his sleep on August 4 at his home in Seattle.

Professor Ankeny, who had had a heart bypass operation earlier this year, died of heart failure, according to family members. He was 66.

Professor Ankeny did much of his research and published a number of papers in analytic number theory, which is concerned with the properties of whole numbers. He also worked on the generalized Riemann hypothesis, studying some of the consequences of the hypothesis.

He also was known for his interest in game theory and in various forms of gambling, particularly poker, which he played regularly himself as a hobby. He also enjoyed bridge and chess. In a book on how to win at poker, he provided mathematical analyses of various strategies, especially with regard to bluffing-when and how to bluff. He often was quoted by the media in stories dealing with the probability of winning in lotteries and in other forms of gaming.

Professor Ankeny was born in Walla Walla and graduated from high school there. After serving in the Army in 1944-45, he received a bachelor of science degree in 1948 from Stanford University and PhD from Princeton University in 1950. He was a Fellow at Princeton and the Institute for Advanced Study for two years and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University from 1952 to 1955, when he joined the MIT faculty in the Department of Mathematics. He became a full professor in 1964 and retired in 1992.

His friends and colleagues remember him for his warm sense of humor, adventurous spirit and his outstanding research accomplishments.

He is survived by his second wife, Charlotte; three children of his first marriage, Nesmith, Katherine and Alexander, and two grandchildren. His first wife, the late Barbara (Holmes), was an editor at MIT Press.


A version of this article appeared in the August 25, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 3).

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