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Robert "Robby" B. Gardner


1939 - 05/05/1998

Robert Brown, "Robby," Gardner, was an American mathematician who worked on differential geometry, a field in which he obtained several novel results. He was the author and co-author of three influential books, produced more than fifty papers, and mentored eighteen masters students and thirteen Ph.D students.

His 1991 book, Exterior Differential Systems, coauthored with Robert Bryant, Shiing-Shen Chern, H. Goldschmidt, and Phillips Griffiths, is the standard reference for the subject. Robert Bryant, Duke University's Professor of Mathematics and the president of the American Mathematical Society, 2015 - 2017, was a student of his.

Robby Gardner is best known in the United States for his improvements and popularization of the methods of Elie Cartan, most notably, Cartan's equivalence method, an algorithmic procedure for determining if two geometric shapes are different. The works of Cartan were hard to grasp for most students, and Gardner worked to explain them in more accessible ways.

Robby Gardner was born on February 27, 1939. He graduated from Princeton University in 1959, earned a master's degree from Columbia University in 1960, and completed his Ph.D. in 1965 from the University of California, Berkeley, under the orientation of Shiing-Shen Chern. After this, he worked at many places, including becoming a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, and some years as assistant professor at Columbia University. He joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1971 and became a full professor there in 1977.

We regret his untimely death. To honor his memory we list below some links that provide more details about his career and his personal qualities. The link “Remembering the Mathematics of Robert Brown Gardner,” leads to an article written by George Wilkens, one of Robert Gardner’s Ph.D. students. Professor Wilkens is presently a faculty member at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.