Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

Dr. Mathukumalli Venkata SubbaRao

Dr. Subbarao dedicated his life to exploring the intricacies of number theory, which was once considered the purest of pure mathematics, but is now finding practical applications in unexpected places, such as computer security and cryptology. Dr. Subbarao published close to 200 research papers in mathematical journals. He contributed many important results and conjectures to the theory of arithmetical functions, and had several papers concerning the distribution of generalized K-free integers, partitions functions, and the Scholz-Brauer problem in addition chains. Some of his important contributions to the field of number theory are the Aiello-Subbarao Conjecture in addition chains, the Subbarao Conjecture in partition functions, and an analogous conjecture for product partitions. Dr. Subbarao’s work in addition chains is still being referred to by cryptologists, in developing secure coding algorithms.

He came to Missouri in 1960, where he stayed for the next three years, joining the faculty of the University of Alberta in 1963. During his long career, he guided several graduate students, and earned an international reputation for his research, and collaborated with leading mathematicians in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Here are some testimonials from former students, friends, and colleagues.

“He was immensely satisfied with his mission in life, namely mathematical research.”

“He was a devoted son, loving head of his family, an excellent teacher, a great researcher, a highly cultured person and a calm and composed gentleman of distinguished understanding. His mellifluous voice, affectionate smile, dignified attire, beautiful handwriting, sympathetic approach in resolving problems of students, guidance in shaping careers of students, all stand out as unique and evoke utmost admiration from one and all.”

“He used to proceed slowly and in degrees in making us understand, or rather digest, the interesting but complex theme of the Complex Number. When any student set out a signal by his facial expression that the argument just concluded was all Greek and Latin to him, Dr. Subbarao, without being explicitly asked, would patiently go back to the previous steps and explain the deductions in a manner that led to a sudden gleam in the eyes of the doubter. He had a knack of knowing, as if by instinct, which portions in general were found hard by the students as a whole. He would repeat the steps for their sake, making the class become more conversant with the subject matter in the process.”

“He was gentle in his presentation of the lecture topic. He was never harsh with any of his students for crossing him with careless questions. His toughest admonition came in the form of a soothing smile, of course after explaining the area where the student went wrong. He thought that a student’s inability to understand must be due to the teacher’s inability to communicate and took the responsibility not to rest until the student fully comprehended the logic involved.”

“ ... teaching Real Analysis. I had no idea then that he would turn out to be my teacher in several courses, my Ph. D. thesis director, and above all, my very good friend. He is gentle man who laughs easily, gives freely of his time and expertise, and is possessed of a prodigious talent.”

“As a lecturer, Prof. Subba Rao impressed the class with his habit of delivering lectures without using notes. He never brought any notes to class; he would bring only the textbook for the class, which would sit unopened on the desk in front of the classroom. It was very easy for us students to take notes in his classes, because he would write extensively on the board throughout the presentation; all we had to do was copy whatever he wrote. (Years later, I spent part of a sabbatical year at the University of Alberta and sat in on an Analytical Number Theory course which he was teaching. Not surprisingly, he still was not using notes to lecture.)”

“It is Professor Subba Rao who opened the gates into the wonderful world of mathematics for me. His explaining the intricacies of abstract mathematical problems, especially in Real Analysis used to make me immersed in the subject for days together.”

“When he started teaching Theory of Numbers in our final year, it was a simple pleasure to sit in his class and follow him as he unfolded the layers of the treasure hidden in the subject. While his teaching of Analysis took us into the depths of the ocean of mathematics his teaching of Theory of Number made us float in its waves.”

Dr. SubbaRao also has a website detailing his work.