Rice mourns mathematics professor Michael Boshernitzan

Michael Boshernitzan, a Rice professor of mathematics, died on Aug. 28 after a long illness. He was 69.

Boshernitzan joined Rice as an assistant professor in 1982, was promoted to associate professor in 1985 and professor in 1993. He came to Rice from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

Michael Boshernitzan

Michael Boshernitzan

His interests lay in ergodic theory, Hardy fields, dynamical systems, number theory and combinatorics, according to department chair Alan Reid, the Edgar Odell Lovett Professor of Mathematics.

“He was especially well known for his work on interval exchange transformations, and in particular for developing a remarkable condition (now called the Boshernitzan condition) to test whether an interval exchange map is uniquely ergodic,” Reid said. “This led to a new proof of the MasurVeech theorem stating that almost every interval exchange transformation is uniquely ergodic. This condition later found applications in spectral theory and the theory of aperiodic order.”

Boshernitzan earned his bachelor of science from Moscow University in 1972, a master’s at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, in 1974, and his Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, in 1981.

As a youngster, he enjoyed competing in the International Mathematical Olympiad, winning regional, national and international medals. He left his hometown at 15 to study at an elite school for mathematics in Moscow founded by Andrey Kolmogorov.

Inspired by his love of mathematics competitions, Boshernitzan was heavily involved from 1984 on in preparing Rice’s team for the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, the preeminent event for undergraduate college students in the U.S. and Canada. The Putnam began in 1938 as a competition between mathematics departments at colleges and universities and has grown to be the leading university-level mathematics examination in the world.

Boshernitzan was predeceased by his first wife, Inna, and is survived by his wife Natalia, his sons Zvi and Yaniv, his stepson Shai Bernstein, his sister Sylvia Moscona, and his grandchildren Eva, Arianna, and David Boshernitzan.

A funeral service was held at Beth Yeshurun Post Oak Cemetery on Aug. 30. Donations in his memory may be made to The Jewish Chaplaincy Program, C/O Jewish Family Service, 4131 South Braeswood, Houston, TX 77025, or online at https://www.jfshouston.org/giveonline.php.

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.