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Bruno Harris received his PhD in Mathematics from Yale in 1956. He went on to join the faculty at Brown's Department of Mathematics, where he worked until the early 2000s. Here, he answers 12 questions from the Yale Alumni Association, explains why the Shubert Theater was one of his favorite places in New Haven, and discusses inspiring Yale mathematicians.

Why Yale?
My undergraduate advisor urged me to apply to Yale to work with Professor Nathan Jacobson at Yale, a leader in "non-commutative algebra." Professor Jacobson turned out to be an excellent advisor at Yale. 

What is your most enduring memory of your time at Yale?
I remember that there were very good graduate students in math and science from more "democratic" undergraduate institutions such as the New York City colleges and Ivy-type colleges. There was a diverse student population. While Yale's math program had fewer top students than Princeton or Harvard, there were some who became world leaders in their areas. One such student was Maria Wonenburger (whose eventual PhD student R. Moody invented Kac-Moody Lie algebras in his PhD thesis — a new and important area which should also bear her name).

If you could relive your time at Yale, what would you do differently?
I would learn earlier about the pizza places.

What would you do exactly the same?
I would do most things exactly the same. 

What is your favorite spot on campus?
At that time in 1950s, we enjoyed dining at Yale Law School, concerts at Woolsey Hall (for instance David Oistrakh on violin), a famous debate at Woolsey Hall on Senator Joseph McCarthy (the authors of "McCarthy and his enemies" versus two Yale Law School professors). 

What is your favorite place in New Haven, past or present?

The Shubert Theater, where plays and musicals headed for Broadway had their tryouts – for instance "My Fair Lady" (based on Shaw's "Pygmalion"), Shaw's "Man and Superman." Also, the Yale Peabody Museum with its famous dinosaurs.

Who is another Yalie who inspires you? Why?
Robert Langlands (now at IAS/Princeton) is perhaps the world's leader in Number Theory and has won the top awards in mathematics. Gian-Carlo Rota was the leader in Combinatorial Mathematics and some of his students are also prominent faculty at MIT.

How did your time at Yale shape the person you are today?
It helped me learn to do research in mathematics, gain many friends, including some on the Yale faculty (and sadly some who are now deceased.) I have been happy to be invited several times to come back to give lectures.

What advice would you give to current students? 
The mix of graduate and undergraduate students creates a good balance on campus. 


How would you answer? Share your responses with the YAA and they might be featured in an upcoming edition of "Getting to Know You."