Person: Massera, JoséLuis
José Luis Massera was an outstanding Uruguayan mathematician who had problems with his career due to his left-wing political views. He was imprisoned for nine years by the right-wing Uruguayan military dictatorship.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- José Pedro was a professor of philosophy who taught at the University of the Republic in Montevideo from 1887 to 1927.
- He became a senator of the Republic of Uruguay for the Colorado Party (1927-1933) and is remembered today for having the Plaza José Pedro Massera named for him in Montevideo.
- José Luis spent the first months of his life in Genoa, then returned to Montevideo with his parents.
- In 1920 José Luis began his primary school education at the Crandon Institute situated, like his home, on the Avenida 8 de Octubre.
- After primary education, he attended the Lyceum before going to the Liceo N° 1 José Enrique Rodó in the Old City of Montevideo.
- There Massera bought a geometry textbook and a trigonometry textbook which he read enthusiastically and found very useful.
- Massera was near the end of his course at the Alfredo Vázquez Acevedo Institute when one day he visited Rafael Laguardia, who lived only three blocks from his house.
- Laguardia introduced me to the small group of mathematical 'aficionados': Antonio Petracca, Fernando Fortezza, Carlos A Infantozzi, Luis Castagnetto, and Mischa Cotlar.
- They both made frequent trips to Montevideo to work with the study group and Beppo Levi in particular, encouraged Massera to undertake research in mathematics.
- Beppo Levi and Massera wrote the joint paper Estudio en grande de una ecuación diferencial del Segundo orden Ⓣ(Large study of a second order differential equation) which was published in 1947.
- Let us go back to 1935, for that was the year that Massera entered the Faculty of Engineering where he was taught analysis by Eduardo García de Zúñiga (1867-1951), one of the first three engineers to graduate in Uruguay.
- Zúñiga quickly realised that Massera was at a level far about the other students studying mathematics and in 1937 he was appointed Assistant for Practical Classes of Mathematical Analysis.
- Although Massera's interests were firmly in studying mathematics, he was a student at the Faculty of Engineering training to be an Industrial Engineer.
- The world situation, with the Spanish Civil War and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, disturbed Massera greatly.
- Also in 1942 the Institute of Mathematics and Statistics was created and Massera joined immediately.
- In 1943 Massera graduated as a Civil Engineer and was appointed as a Professor of Mathematical Analysis in the Faculty of Engineering.
- In the same year Marshall Stone visited South America and met with Massera.
- He was very impressed and wrote to Harry Miller, who dealt with awarding Rockefeller fellowships, saying that Massera was under forty, showed a promising combination of interests, training and judgment that would help him "make a real contribution to mathematical and scientific development" in Uruguay.
- After Miller received a very positive recommendation from the Faculty of Engineering in Montevideo, he discussed the award of a Rockefeller fellowship with his colleagues and, in 1944, Rockefeller approved funding Massera for one year at Stanford to study for a master's Degree.
- Miller continued trying to convince the U.S. immigration authorities to allow Massera to enter the United States.
- Massera was appointed as Professor of Higher Mathematics at the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences in Montevideo in 1946.
- In October 1946 the Rockefeller officials learnt that Massera was running for the Uruguayan Congress and they discussed awarding him a fellowship to study in Russia.
- In January 1947, however, Massera was granted a U.S. visa and in March of that year travelled to Stanford where it had been arranged that Gábor Szegö would supervise his studies.
- George Pólya was also at Stanford and both he and Szegö made Massera very welcome.
- The most interesting course Massera attended at Stanford was on real number theory given by Hans Rademacher, a visiting professor.
- Massera became interested in ship stabilisation problems and asked Rockefeller if he could transfer to New York and attend New York University and also travel by train between New York and Princeton to work with mathematicians at Princeton University.
- Working with Lefschetz was the most profitable experience for Massera.
- Massera's research was going so well that he asked Rockefeller if they would extend his fellowship for another six months.
- They agreed and this period saw Massera produce his most important results.
- In this second paper, Massera points out an error in Norman Levinson's paper Transformation theory of non-linear differential equations of the second order (1944).
- In his paper, Massera corrected Levinson's error and provided necessary and sufficient conditions.
- Returning to Montevideo, Massera was appointed as Head of the Mathematics Laboratory of the Institute of Mathematics and Statistics.
- Massera was keen to participate in this and also in the meeting of the International Mathematical Union at Columbia which was scheduled to take place before the Congress.
- Neither problem was solved and in August 1950, Massera informed both meetings that he would be unable to attend.
- The request came at an inconvenient time, in the middle of a term; Laguardia had to find someone to take Massera's classes, and he had to get along without Massera's help with the routine administrative chores.
- One of the first students that Massera taught after returning to Montevideo from the United States was Juan Jorge Schäffer.
- While he was still an undergraduate Schäffer published two joint papers with Massera, Figura mínima que cubre puntos de una red Ⓣ(Minimal figure covering points of a network) (1951) and Sobre las curvas de nivel de una superficie convexa Ⓣ(On the level curves of a convex surface) (1953).
- Massera said that the new cabinet, in which Charlone and Legnani remain, now includes such persons as Peirano Facio, representative of a large bank; and Frick Davies, a big landowner from Durazno who is the voice of the Latifundists.
- On 22 October 1975 Massera was arrested.
- Massera was released on 3 March 1984 after appeals by the American Mathematical Society, the Cuban Society of Mathematicians, the European Parliament, 50 Nobel Prize winners, members of the Austrian Parliament, members of the Australian Parliament and a large number of mathematicians and scientists from Mexico, United States, Spain, France, Great Britain, West Germany and Japan.
- Many universities had shown their support by awarding Massera honorary degrees while he was in prison, including: "La Sapienzia", Rome, Italy (1978); Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany (1980); University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, Nice, France (1981); Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Puebla, Mexico (1982); Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador (1982); International University of La Paz, La Paz, Bolivia (1983); the University of Havana, Havana, Cuba (1983), Autonomous University of Mexico, Toluca, Mexico (1983), University of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary (1984), and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1984).
- After his release from prison, Massera traveled to Europe in 1985 and personally received his Honorary degrees from the Universities of Budapest, Nice, Berlin and Rome.
Born 8 June 1915, Genoa, Italy. Died 9 September 2002, Montevideo, Uruguay.
View full biography at [MacTutor](https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Massera/
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive