REMEMBERING A TEACHER AND A FRIEND INDEED.
When Prof.P.V.Arunachalam , retired Vice Chancellor of Dravida University at Kuppam requested me to write up my reminiscences of Dr.S.Minakshisundaram, also known as Dr.SMS. for the commemorative issue of the journal of The Association of Mathematics Teachers of Andhra Pradesh, I was more than happy and honored to agree.
I first met him in the second year of my study for the B.Sc. (Hons) degreee in Mathematical Physics in the year 1948 after his return from the Institute for Advanced Study., Princeton, New Jersey as Visiting Lecturer . He taught us two courses — one on Infinite series and one on Ordinary Differential Equations. He was an excellent teacher mixing heuristics and rigor nicely. He was friendly and helpful. I do not remember his teaching other courses for my batch. But I do remember his teaching a course on Number Theory perhaps for the mathematics Hons. Students using the book by Trygve Nageil . He was enthusiastically talking about the then new simplified proof of the Prime Number Theorem by Atle Seilberg.
At heart he was a researcher and tried to foster an atmosphere for research. He conducted a seminar on Hilbert spaces for the benefit of his doctoral students. I attended that one held in his residence. “Seminar” was a new word and became a popular activity. Also he tried to bring as many leading mathematicians as possible to lecture at Andhra University. I recall the visits of Prof.Marshall Stone, who spoke on the Stone-Weierstrass Theorem and Daniell Integral, Prof. Nobert Wiener who spoke on Brownian Motion and Weiner Integral and Prof.Hans Maas, who spoke on Modular Forms. He put some emphasis on heuristics and suggested to young researchers not to be obsessed with with rigor but let the imagination play with an idea. He said so in one of the meetings of Department of Mathematical Physics Association of which I happened to be president that year and we were kidding him for giving us a reprieve from the constraints of rigor.Certainly he knew the importance of rigorous proofs being an expert in hard analysis but felt initially at least excessive concern about rigor is premature and rigor will come in due course once the idea is sound.
He not like slovenliness at all. One day i did not feel like going to teach my class because I felt a bit under the weather and I told him so. He did not like it since he felt that I was a bit lazy and told me so. I felt piqued and immediately dressed up and went to the class. My health was not any worse for it . From that point on I extremely rarely missed any classes throughout my teaching career much to the chagrin of some of my students. Another time my classmates M.Rajagopalan was talking in the seminar on Hilbert Spaces and apparently had not prepared adequately and was some what fuzzy in his presentation. Dr.SMS was annoyed and came down upon him like a ton of bricks. These were rare occasions.