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James Wolfe Remembered

James H. Wolfe, emeritus professor of our department, passed away on November 15. 


In Loving Memory

James H. Wolfe, a brilliant mathematician, influential professor, devoted friend, caring uncle, and loving husband, died peacefully November 15 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was 96 years old.

As an undergraduate, James studied at the University of Utah. He became Professor of Mathematics there after obtaining his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1948. While living in Cambridge, James worked at MIT's radar research laboratory during WWII. His studies at Harvard involved geometric integration theory which resulted in Wolfe's Theorem, a current research topic in mathematical topology.

James was born in Salt Lake City. His father, James H. Wolfe, was Chief Justice of Utah's Supreme Court and his mother, Carolyn Williams Wolfe, worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in Washington, DC, where James attended high school. In his youth, James helped build the Wasatch Mountain Club lodge in Brighton, Utah and enjoyed riding his horse, Gabriel, in the canyons and upper avenues of Salt Lake.

At the University of Utah, James was a treasured teacher who learned all of his students' names within the first few days of class and provided meticulous notes for each lecture. Cryptically, mathematical symbols used in examples always reflected the names of those dear to him, especially his wife, Martha.

James married Martha Sue Chamberlain in 1957. Martha was his one and only true love, and lifelong friend. After a honeymoon in Ely Nevada, they not only built a life together, but built their house together in Emigration Canyon which they shared with generations of Siamese cats. James and Martha enjoyed touring the west and old mining towns and were always game for picnics in the mountains with friends.
James is survived by his sister, Katherine W. Streeper, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and numerous nieces and nephews.


Published in Salt Lake Tribune on Nov. 26, 2017

Last Updated: 6/8/21