Person: Segel, Lee
Lee Segel was an American mathematical biologist who moved to Israel. He is known for his work in the spontaneous appearance of order in convection, slime molds and chemotaxis.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Louis Segel was a tailor, being a partner in the firm Oppenheim-Segel.
- Lee Segel attended Newton High School, graduating in 1949, giving his address as 77 Kenilworth Street, Newton, Massachusetts.
- He had many interests at school, being in the Ski team, the Boys' Chorus, the Glee Club and the Chemistry Club, of which he was the Vice-President.
- Segel went from Harvard to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he originally thought he would study computer science but changed to applied mathematics for his graduate studies.
- Segel was awarded a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1959 for his thesis Applications of Conformal Mapping to Boundary Perturbation Problems.
- This Institute, founded in Troy, New York, in 1824, is a private research university which had as its founding aim "application of science to the common purposes of life." The Segels lived in Troy, New York, at 40B Ahern Avenue.
- The first publications by Segel were Application of conformal mapping to viscous flow between moving circular cylinders (1960), A uniformly-valid asymptotic expansion of the solution to an unsteady boundary-layer problem (1960), and Application of conformal mapping to boundary perturbation problems for the membrane equation (1961).
- Segel was on leave in the academic year 1963-64, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was partially supported by the National Science Foundation.
- At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Segel took over teaching the course Foundations of Applied Mathematics which had been introduced by George H Handelman (1921-2008).
- Segel's course ran through two semesters and he set out to write a book for the course.
- The book for the second semester course was Mathematics applied to continuum mechanics written solely by Segel but also incorporating material on elasticity by Handelman.
- As we learnt from the above quote, Segel moved to Israel in September 1973 to take up an appointment at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot.
- Lee's two great early contributions, both with Evelyn Fox Keller, created frameworks for modelling bacterial chemotaxis, and for understanding related problems in the development of the cellular slime mould, a model system for studying development, multicellularity, and social biology.
- Lee quickly earned the respect of the leading experimentalists and theoreticians in these subjects, in particular John Bonner and Ted Cox at Princeton, and Howard Berg, then at Colorado.
- More than thirty years later, the Keller-Segel models remain the gold standards in these fields.
- In 1980 the book Mathematical Models in Molecular and Cellular Biology was published, edited by Segel.
- L A Segel has performed a singular service to all interested scientists in the preparation of the present volume, which records the contributions of the twenty-one authors of the course notes.
- From the time he arrived at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Segel taught a one semester course to first-year graduate students in the biological sciences about techniques of mathematical modelling.
- Lee laced every interaction with humour, and no pun was beneath him; many were subtle enough to make their way past editors into his published papers.
- Segel died in 2005 and the publisher Springer, in conjunction with the Society for Mathematical Biology established prizes in his memory.
- The Lee Segel Prizes are awarded every two years, starting in 2008.
- Segel's final book A primer on mathematical models in biology was published in 2013, eight years after Segel's death.
- It was written by Leah Edelstein-Keshet, based on Segel's course at the Weizmann Institute and on the sequel to Modeling Dynamic Phenomena in Molecular and Cellular Biology which Segel was working on at the time of his death.
- A primer on mathematical models in biology will appeal to readers because it (i) represents the unique perspective developed by the popular and highly respected applied mathematician Lee Segel in a course he taught at the Weizmann Institute of Science; (ii) combines clear and useful mathematical methods with applications that illustrate the power of such tools; and (iii) includes many exercises in reasoning, modelling, and simulations.
- Three things impressed me most about Lee - the first one was the clarity of his science: unlike most of us, he never used mathematical complexity to disguise incomplete understanding, and always found the shortest, straightest, and by default the most beautiful way to solve the problem.
Born 5 February 1932, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Died 31 January 2005, Rehovot, Israel.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive