Professor David A. Vogan Jr. has been appointed to a five-year term as head of the Department of Mathematics, effective July 1. He takes over the post from Professor David Benney.
In announcing Professor Vogan's appointment in a memo to the department's faculty and staff, Dean of Science Robert J. Birgeneau said, "He combines outstanding accomplishments in mathematics with excellent intellectual and educational leadership. Both [Provost] Bob Brown and I are confident that David will make an outstanding head of mathematics, ad we look forward to working with him."
Professor Vogan, who earned the BA and MS from the University of Chicago before receiving the PhD from MIT in 1976, joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1979. He became an associate professor in 1981 and full professor in 1984. Now the chair of the Pure Mathematics Committee, he previously chaired the Undergraduate Committee and the Graduate Committee.
His research concerns infinite-dimensional representation theory, especially unitary representations. These mathematical problems arose first in quantum mechanics. Physicists have a powerful and extensive dictionary relating quantum mechanical problems to classical mechanical ones. Professor Vogan's thesis adviser, Professor Emeritus Bertram Kostant, and Professor Alexander Kirillov discovered in the 1960s the existence of a parallel dictionary relating representation theory to classical geometry.
In the case of semisimple Lie groups, Professor Vogan has constructed families of unitary representations whose existence is suggested by geometry. Through his work, this subject has made striking advances in depth and breadth. In addition, his numerous students have continued his work in this field. "Among these students, he is known for his loyalty and generosity with his time and his ideas," a colleague said.
In addition to his advanced courses, Professor Vogan has conducted weekly Lie group seminars for about 20 years which have made MIT an internationally known center in representation theory.
Professor Vogan replaces Professor Benney, who headed the department since 1989. "David has been a truly outstanding department head who has served both the department and the Institute very well," said Dean Birgeneau. "I personally will be very sorry to lose him both as a department head and as an invaluable member of Science Council."
A version of this article appeared in the March 3, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 21).