RIP: Math prof, ageless rower Hartley Rogers, Jr.

hartley rogers mit math henley royal regatta
Bob Brown/NetworkWorld

Sad news swirled through my circle of friends this past week when we learned that old friend Hartley Rogers, Jr., had passed away at the age of 89.

And when I say old friend, I mean it. When I met Hartley, back in 1988, he was in his 60s and me and most of my friends were in their 20s. But we were united with Hartley as part of a group assembled by a Harvard University coach to row at the Henley Royal Regatta in England (I did not attend Harvard, but most of my Henley crew mates did). And sure enough, Hartley did provide us with the experience we needed to train hard and make ourselves presentable at the renowned rowing event. And in fact, I recall Hartley being something of a celebrity at Henley because of his age at the time... 

I recall him getting on me about wanting to close the windows at night at the house we stayed at in Henley urging me instead to let the chill air toughen up my lungs. He was also quick to offer help to those seeking advice on rowing technique and strategy.

But there are two reasons I mention Hartley in this space, beyond reliving glory days.

First, I recall negotiating my two-week Henley excursion into my hiring deal that year as I was brought on to the Network World staff as a writer.

Second, Hartley was a great thinker in mathematics as a professor at MIT, particularly in the area of recursion theory. Heck, there's even a theorem bearing his name. As MIT's Math Department puts it:

Rogers’ research interests were in mathematical logic, and he is credited as one of the main developers of recursion theory, and of the usefulness and validity of informal methods in this area. His 1959 paper “Computing Degrees of Unsolvability” obtained semantical completeness results for higher levels of arithmetical complexity, and underlies current methodology in studies of computable structures. Rogers authored the 1967 book “Theory of Recursive Functions and Effective Computability,” which has become a central and standard reference in the field, and remains in print.

I do recall our conversations on the innards of mathematics were brief, however, as calculus, etc., were not exactly my strong suits.

But the basic math on Hartley is that he lived a good long life: He was a heck of a competitive rower and a much admired teacher and family man. 

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