* categories: Bill Lawvere ...
@ 2023-02-01 5:40 Robin Cockett
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From: Robin Cockett @ 2023-02-01 5:40 UTC (permalink / raw)
To: categories net
Bill Lawvere touched many of our lives and, indeed, he more than touched mine! He helped me through a difficult period and a change of direction. In particular, he wrote a reference letter to promote me as a potential postdoc for the Australian category theory seminar. In it he described me as "an Englishman of Australian descent" ... this, I can but think, decisively sold me to the Sydney group!
I joined the Australian Category Theory group in 1989 with high hopes of working with Bob Walters on distributive categories. However, I arrived at a time when the always colorful relation between Bob Walters and Max Kelley was "off" and obtained a very human lesson in the politics of personalities. Fortunately, Ross was my (personality free!) supervisor and my time in Sydney was absolutely formative. I learnt a lot from both Bob and Max -- separately -- (and Ross). It was there, for example, that I started my long collaboration with Robert Seely.
Here, of course, I am acknowledging my great debt to Bill for the inimitable sales job that got me to Australia!
I had got to know Bill almost exclusively through the conferences and meeting which made up the category theory community in the 1980s. His energy amazed me. He (and, indeed, Steve Schanuel) chatted so openly about their inexhaustible ideas with such enthusiasm and energy: how could one not believe that their ideas were important?
Bill's talks always overflowed with enthusiasm -- although sometimes not with commensurate clarity. Once, after a talk at FMCS, which clearly had left his audience in the dust, Bill turned to me with the expectation that I would ask a question -- I recall I struggled but obliged. How could I let Bill down? To me Bill was always a person to whom I could talk. He seemed to be at his very best talking to small intimate groups and in one-on-one situations. And did he like to talk mathematics ...
The last time I saw Bill was in Aviero (CT2015) and I sat with him at the conference dinner and we chatted: some of that fire and shear energy by that time was gone ... but I treasured the chance to quietly reconnect.
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