April 29, 2013

In Memoriam: Larry Shepp

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Larry SheppA “Celebration of Life” event will be held in Larry’s honor on Thursday, January 30, 2014.  If you are able to attend, kindly RSVP by Wednesday, January 22, 2014.

Larry Shepp, the Patrick T. Harker Professor in the Statistics Department, passed away at the age of 76. Larry was unable to recover from a terrible fall that occurred several months ago. He will be deeply missed.

Internationally recognized as a distinguished mathematician and probabilist of the highest caliber, Larry was an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Medicine, and the Academy of Arts and Sciences. He made contributions to an astonishing array of fields, including medical imaging, broadband technology, operations management and finance. He published more than 180 papers during his long and distinguished career.

Larry was awarded his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Princeton University in 1961 where he studied under the renowned William Feller. His M.A. was also in Mathematics from Princeton in 1960, and he received his B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1958.

Larry joined our faculty in 2010. Previously, he held positions at Rutgers University from 1997 to 2010, where he was named Board of Governor’s Professor in 2004; Columbia University from 1973 to 1996; and part-time at Stanford University from 1978 to 1992.

Larry spent a major part of his storied career at Bell Laboratories (1962-1996), where he was a distinguished member of the technical staff working on tomography, probability and combinatorics.  This time also included stints at Resonex Inc. (1983-1984), where he worked on MRI scanners; and American Science and Engineering Inc. (1974-1975), where he worked on X-ray and CT scanners.

His research focused on automatic pattern recognition, connectedness of random graphs and genetics. His major research interests were in probabilistic, combinatorial, and statistical analysis of models for problems arising in physics, engineering and communications. Larry’s most recent passion was in the field of diabetes research. He hoped to develop an algorithm that would allow blood glucose meters to communicate with an insulin pump to automate the delivery of insulin to patients.

One example of the lasting and pervasive benefits of his work was his development of the “Shepp-Logan” algorithm in the early 1970s, which became the worldwide standard for all CT machines. He later expanded this algorithm to MRI scans. His work was key to transforming these technologies into efficient diagnostic tools.

He was the winner of several awards, including the Putnam Intercollegiate Mathematics Competition, the Paul Levy Prize and the IEEE Distinguished Scientist Award.

Ed George, Chair of Wharton’s Statistics Department, said of Larry, “He was loved by many and had friends all over the world. As a colorful and brilliant member of our department, we will all miss him terribly.”

Larry is survived by his wife Britt-Louise, three children and seven grandchildren.

For those interested in honoring Larry’s life and acquaintance, his family requests that, in lieu of flowers, a donation be made in Larry’s name to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation at http://jdrf.org.

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4 Responses to In Memoriam: Larry Shepp

  1. Srinivas Maloor says:

    Prof. Shepp was a brilliant person – a handful of such individuals are around in any generation. Perhaps the smartest scientist/teacher/thinker that I have encountered in my life. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to take two courses with him during my graduate school years at Rutgers. He was full of fresh ideas and many of his students, peers and colleagues were in awe of his “out of the box thinking”. His sudden demise is a true loss to this world. He will be deeply missed. I am at a loss for words, and my heart goes out to his family during this difficult period.

  2. Sam Kennerly says:

    I only knew Prof. Shepp from a few meetings. Even in a short time, he managed to teach me enough to greatly improve my research.

    Larry volunteered his expertise when I was working on my PhD thesis in physics at Drexel and I asked for help with stochastic calculus. His suggestions led me to much more elegant and useful versions of the vague ideas I had at the time.

    I’m putting the finishing touches on my finished thesis this week. I can only imagine how much longer it would have taken me without Larry’s help! It’s an honor to add one more element to the very long list of mathematical, scientific, and engineering topics which have benefited in some way from his insight.

  3. Shankar Narayanan says:

    I met Larry at Rutgers university when I was taking my doctoral course in stochatic process. Larry was also extremely down to earth as a person. I learned a lot from him during my interactions with him.

    Even at 72, he would go to the gym and lift weights.

    He would be terribly missed.

    Sorry to hear this sad news.

  4. F. Thomas Bruss says:

    It is only right now that I hear this, and
    I am so sad to hear that Larry Shepp has died.

    The first time I met him was at U. Cornell at a meeting
    in 1983, and I remember that evening as well as our long conversation
    very well. He seemed so interesting.

    I never had the honor to work
    with him on a paper, but several times the pleasure at other
    occasions to have again long discussions with him. The last time
    with Larry for me was together with Goran Peskir, almost a whole
    daylight-night (in June in Finland, around 2010) of
    discussions about Mathematics, religion, god and the world, and everything.

    Yes, I was fully admirative for Larry, and I think many must have shared this
    admiration. (Freddy Delbaen and I liked to refer to him as Larry Sharp.)

    F.Thomas Bruss/ ULB Brussels

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