The people I did not thank in my thesis


My thesis, which I defended last Monday, includes a big list of acknowledgements. Unlike the very stately, presidential message above, it does not include nods to haters or losers. It does include a few unusual entities, like the United States and the Coca-Cola Foundation, but everything remains positive.

Even taking a pretty expansive view of who deserved an acknowledgement, I still made some omissions for space or style. Below is a list of entities, thanked without constraints.

  1. Service workers. Everyday, something in my life is easier because of cleaning staff, restaurant workers, delivery drivers, or other service workers. These men and women work hard, menial jobs and often get very little thanks or recognition (even less than administrative staff like secretaries). For example, the Rutgers math department cleaning staff often works at night, when you can’t see them! Thank you to all the workers who make life a thousand times easier for all of us.

  2. Euclid et al. Although “mathematics” consists of many people working constantly to push our boundary of knowledge forward, there are some people that pushed this boundary further than anyone else. The mathematical community owes a great debt to these legendary mathematicians of yore. Some of the “standard” mentions are Euler, Gauss, Newton, and Leibniz, but I feel that a special nod must be given to Euclid for being the first to shape mathematics into its modern form.

  3. Taxpayers. About 66% of all academics work at public universities. Even outside of public universities, many grants are awarded by NSF, NSA, or other federal agencies, and students often pay tuition using federal loans. Maybe Princeton and Harvard could get by with private money, but the majority of academics work at places that can’t. It is thanks to the United States and her citizens that I and most academics have work. A grateful thank you to them.

  4. Tech wizards. It is unthinkable to do mathematics without the computer tools I use every day. Leslie Lamport and Don Knuth made $\LaTeX$, the symbolic computation group at the University of Waterloo created Maple, and Guido van Rossum designed the almost-perfect Python. I must give a special thank you to the late Bram Moolenaar, who created the truly stupendous text editor Vim. I do 90% of my work by writing notes in Vim, and that work is all the more pleasant and efficient thanks to him.

That covers just about everyone. At this point, if you haven’t been thanked, I have some bad news for you. If it’s any consolation, I’m not dying, so you still have a chance to do something really nice to make the next list. Better start now!