Professor Karl Gruenberg: Leading light in algebra research

Karl Walter Gruenberg, mathematician: born Vienna 3 June 1928; Assistant Lecturer in Mathematics, Queen Mary College (later Queen Mary and Westfield), London University 1953-55, Lecturer 1957-61, Reader 1961-67, Professor of Pure Mathematics 1967-93 (Emeritus); Commonwealth Fund Fellow 1955-57; twice married (one son, one daughter); died London 10 October 2007.

Karl Gruenberg, Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics of Queen Mary, London University, was a much respected algebraist, being a leading light in the London algebra research community, with many professional contacts across the globe.

Gruenberg was born in 1928 of Jewish parents in Vienna, where he spent his early life. His parents separated when he was still very young. After the Nazis took over, Karl and his parents all escaped, but separately, in different directions and at slightly different times. Karl got to the UK on a Kindertransport in 1939; arriving in England on his own at the age of 10 he was very unhappy, but fortunately his mother was able to join him later. He had a less than easy transition to the English school system, going first to Shaftesbury Grammar School in Dorset and then to Kilburn Grammar School in London.

Winning an entrance scholarship to Magdalene College, he went up to Cambridge, obtaining his BA in 1950 and his PhD in 1954. For the latter he worked under Philip Hall, the UK's leading algebraist at the time, submitting a thesis in the theory of groups (a branch of algebra concerned with an abstract study of symmetry). He moved to Queen Mary College, London University, temporarily in 1953 and permanently in 1957. There Kurt Hirsch was slowly building up a world-class algebra research centre and Gruenberg rapidly became a leading member of this group.

Gruenberg remained at Queen Mary all his working life, apart from leaves of absence mostly taken at North American universities. He was made Professor in 1967, and was Head of the Pure Mathematics Department from 1973 until 1978.

After leaving Cambridge he continued his research in abstract group theory into the 1960s, becoming a leading expert at the time on the Engel theory of groups, which is concerned with extracting global information from certain types of local data.

From about 1960 or so, his main research interest moved into homological algebra and its applications, particularly to group theory. In mathematics, frequently unsuspected connections arise between quite separate and apparently unrelated areas. In this work Gruenberg was concerned with applying to group theory techniques originally developed for the "geometry of continuity". In this field he was a major, in many ways the major, pioneer. This work led him over the years towards representation theory, especially integral representation theory, and more latterly number theory. He published many research articles both sing-ularly and jointly.

He was a talented and very successful teacher, especially of graduate students and his many innovative graduate courses were regularly attended by students, visitors and staff from Queen Mary and other London institutions. His books, Linear Geometry (1967, an undergraduate text written with Alan Weir), Cohomological Topics in Group Theory (1970) and Relation Modules of Finite Groups (1976), were all very well received. He continued his research to the end. He published a joint paper with Alfred Weiss in the Journal of Algebra in 2006, was working on further joint work with Weiss in the summer of 2007 both at Queen Mary and at the University of Alberta in Canada. He had been due to address the Queen Mary Pure Mathematics Seminar.

Gruenberg was a very cultured person with many interests well outside of mathematics. Particular interests of his were the theatre, music, architecture and painting. Years ago, I remember him as a pretty nifty left-handed table tennis player, though he always wrote with his right hand.

B.A.F. Wehrfritz

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas