Magazine Feature / People

DU math department founder Herbert Greenberg dies

photo portrait

Herbert Greenberg

Mathematician and mathematics education pioneer Herbert Greenberg, a DU professor emeritus, died Jan. 1, 2007, in Peoria, Ill. He was 85.

In the early 1960s, Greenberg created and chaired the mathematics department at the University of Denver. He stayed at DU for 30 years, during which he served as dean of mathematics and computing science. 

Greenberg also chaired the National Science Foundation committee for awarding grants for scientific research.

Greenberg was born in Chicago on Nov. 28, 1921 and attended Northwestern University when he was just 14. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern, and earned a PhD from Brown University.

During World War II, Greenberg worked on numerous projects for the U.S. military. He invented a torpedo net of metal rings to protect harbors, explored the optimal pursuit paths for fighter aircraft engaged in dogfights, and worked on proximity fuses on anti-aircraft shells. Notably, Greenberg predicted wing failure in aircraft, thus saving countless lives.

Greenberg was a principal creator of variational principles in plasticity. He was at the forefront of computer technology as programmer of an early mainframe computer and designed systems for computer courses as early as the 1950s.

He also played classical piano and tennis, wrote silly songs and limericks, and, his family says, was inclined to bait people into political discussions.

Greenberg is survived by his wife, Margery, Peoria, Ill.; son, Walter, Peoria; and daughter Elizabeth (Betsy), Koror, Palau.

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