Former Mathematics Professor Dies at 86

Photo: David Gale
David Gale

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David Gale, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of mathematics, economics and operations research, died March 7 at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center following a heart attack. He was 86.

Gale, who was a renowned figure in game theory work and economics, is remembered by his colleagues for his ability to stimulate creative discussions.

"David had a talent for raising questions which would engage others and it was great fun to sit with him over a cup of coffee wresting with some problem or other," said UC Berkeley professor emeritus Jacob Feldman. "We will miss this and miss him."

Gale received his bachelor's in physics from Swarthmore College in 1943, his master's in mathematics from University of Michigan in 1947 and his doctorate in mathematics from Princeton University in 1949, said his daughter, Katharine Gale.

Gale began teaching at Princeton University and Brown University, joining UC Berkeley as a visiting Miller professor from 1965-1966. In 1966, he became a professor of mathematics and operations research, and in 1967, also a professor of economics. He retired in 1991.

Gale's most recognized contribution is the Gale-Shapley stable marriage algorithm, a collaborative effort with UCLA professor emeritus Lloyd Shapley, which can pair stable matches between two even-numbered groups according to preferences, Katharine Gale said.

"People have come up with new variations with that same idea of algorithms, applying it to different real world situations," she said.

Gale was also well-known for his contributions to game theory and was mentioned in Sylvia Nasar's book, "A Beautiful Mind." While an instructor at Princeton, Gale advised John Nash on his thesis, which earned Nash the Nobel Prize in 1994.

Gale's love of problem-solving in math explains his fascination with puzzles and games, which he loved sharing with people, Katharine Gale said.

"He would show his children, friends or anyone he met his latest puzzle or theorum," she said. "He wanted people to get excited about the beauty of mathematics."

According to Katharine Gale, it was his lifelong commitment to get people to see the beauty of math that moved him to create the award-winning math museum Web site "MathSite."

Outside of mathematics and puzzles, Katharine Gale says her father loved jazz, traveling and new experiences.

"He had a very strong sense of curiousity about the world," she said.

Gale leaves behind his partner of 15 years Sandra M. Gilbert and three daughters-Kirsten Gale Cutler of Santa Rosa, Calif., Karen Gale of Sacramento, Calif. and Katherine Gale of Berkeley.

A memorial service will be held at the UC Berkeley Faculty Club on April 27 from 3-5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, his family requests donations be made in Gale's memory to The David Gale Fund for Interactive Mathematics.


Contact Emily Grospe at [email protected]

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