A Tribute to Lee Segel

The communities of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Biology grieve for the sudden, untimely loss of a great leader, who was admired and loved by so many of us. Lee A. Segel, of the Weizmann Institute of Science passed away on January 31, 2005. His brief intense battle with illness came unexpectedly, during what had been the prime of an early retirement. Until that illness robbed us of our friend, mentor, and colleague, Lee was at the peak of his active life. His passions included scientific research with many collaborators world-wide, mentoring and training of young scientists, wide ranging interests in mathematics, biology, science as well as a concern for the people he knew, their lives and their families and their stories.

Read Tributes to Lee Segel

Lee A. Segel is known to many of us as a leading scholar in Applied Mathematics: his books with CC Lin have been gold standards in the teaching of modeling, continuum mechanics, and asymptotic methods. (One of these books is a longstanding SIAM classic.) Lee was also a pioneer of modern Mathematical Biology. His work spans more than three decades in this field, with huge impact. He was amongst the earliest promoters of the need for close contact between theoretical and experimental biology. He fostered the appreciation of modeling by biologists, and of biology by mathematicians. Lee Segel wrote many papers in mathematical biology, and was the author of a handful of books based on his teaching at the Weizmann Institute and elsewhere. His work has led to the creation of new mathematics and computational tools for investigating riches of biological behavior. His research on pattern formation and morphogenesis has been seminal in launching a burgeoning field at the intersection of biology, mathematics, and computation. He was amongst the forefathers of the field now known as theoretical immunology.

Lee was an athletic and physically fit individual. His energy and love of the outdoors, and his physical stamina, often put younger hikers to shame. He was equally comfortable in the office, the classroom, the tennis court, the canoe, or the hills and trails of Santa Fe, where he spent many a summer. Lee had a rich family and personal life, and a huge following of friends and colleagues. Particularly noted for his wisdom, wit and subtle humor, Lee was a humanist, whose presence at any event, scientific or otherwise, made for an aura of collegiality and inclusion. He has taught us many lessons in how to build a community where mutual interests and mutual respect coexist in harmony, regardless of conflicting points of view, divergent approaches, or competitive goals.

In life, Lee influenced many members of our communities. His premature death has affected us deeply.

The SIAM Activity Group on Life Sciences, (of which Lee Segel has been chair until his recent passing) has agreed to dedicate part of its website to a repository for remembrances about Lee. We welcome contributions from members, friends, former students, and colleagues who wish to share their reminiscences and stories of Lee with each other, and with our community.

The preceding was composed by Leah Edelstein-Keshet, a former student of Lee Segel.

John Rinzel, Chair
SIAM Activity Group on Life Sciences

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