Peter Larkin Duren, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, died July 10 in Superior Township, Michigan, after a long and courageous struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

Peter Larkin Duren
Peter Larkin Duren

He was born in April 30, 1935, and raised in New Orleans, the eldest child of William L. Duren Jr. and Mary Hardesty Duren. Following his father into mathematics, he graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1956.

He and his future wife, Grace (“Gay”) Adkins, met in college singing together in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. They were married in 1957. Three years later Duren earned his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From 1962 until his retirement in 2010, he taught mathematics at U-M, with one year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1968-69 and visiting stints at Stanford and Maryland. He supervised the Ph.D. theses of more than two dozen students at U-M.

Duren was a prolific mathematical writer. He served as an editor for several professional journals, including the Michigan Mathematical Journal and the American Mathematical Monthly. His own publications included Theory of Hp Spaces and several other books advancing the frontiers of his field, complex analysis; the textbook “Invitation to Classical Analysis”; and more than 100 research papers.

An avid traveler, Duren served as a visiting professor or scholar in many parts of the world during his U-M tenure, including Israel, China, South Africa, Chile and numerous European countries. He and his wife often traveled together for enjoyment as well. Their favorite destinations included France, the Swiss Alps, Norway and New Zealand.

Ever a collector and keeper of lists, his wide range of interests and hobbies included hiking, reading, listening to classical music, birding, gardening, photography, stamp collecting, carpentry and astronomy.

In all things, he carried his mathematician’s passion for accuracy and precision. But it was in some of his more unusual pursuits that his quirky sense of humor came out. With somewhat purposeful eccentricity, he collected banana stickers, performed unsolicited magic tricks, and kept pet box turtles in the back yard.

Mathematical history became a new research focus late in his career. Duren was the principal editor of the three-volume historical collection “A Century of Mathematics in America,” published by the American Mathematical Society in 1988.

Fluent in French, he unearthed new information from French sources about the mathematician Adrien-Marie Legendre and discovered archived records in Europe shedding new light on German mathematician and poet Robert Jentzsch.

Passionate about civil liberties and academic freedom, Duren was treasurer on the board of U-M’s Academic Freedom Lecture Fund from 2001-16.

Duren is survived by Gay Duren, his wife of 63 years; his sister, Sally Schloemann; his brother, David Duren; his daughter, Betsy Duren; his son, Bill Duren; and his daughter-in-law, Jan Wigginton.

Donations in memory of Peter Duren may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research at michaeljfox.org, the American Mathematical Society at ams.org, or the American Civil Liberties Union at aclu.org.

— Submitted by Department of Mathematics

Tags: