Rice will host an Aug. 4 memorial celebration to honor the life of longtime math professor John Hempel, who died Jan. 13 in Florida at age 86.
A native of Salt Lake City, Hempel joined Rice as an assistant professor in 1962 and retired in 2013 as the Milton B. Porter Professor of Mathematics. He was a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, and his research in 3D topology was well-known and had tremendous influence on the development of low-dimensional topology. His 1976 textbook, 3-Manifolds, was long considered required reading for graduate students in the field, and his early introduction of combinatorial group theory into the study of 3-manifolds helped spur the interest of a new generation of mathematicians.
Hempel published research in some of the most prestigious mathematical journals and held appointments at the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1963-64 and 1971-72.
Hempel also loved the arts and outdoors. He was an accomplished pianist who enjoyed camping, mountain biking and skiing in addition to concerts and painting with oil on canvas.
Hempel was preceded in death by his wife, Edith, in 2013. Survivors include his son, Kris, daughter-in-law, Tracey, and three grandsons.