Gian-Carlo Rota

Gian-Carlo Rota (1932-1999) was an Italian-born American mathematician and philosopher.

He was born in Vigevano, Italy, where he lived until he was 13 years old. At that time his family fled Italy because his father, Giovanni Rota, was likely to be an object of fascist persecution.

He attended the Colegio Americano de Quito in Ecuador, and earned degrees at Princeton University and Yale University. For most of his career he was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was the only person ever to be appointed Professor of Applied Mathematics and Philosophy.

He began his career as a functional analyst, but changed directions and became a distinguished combinatorialist. He inaugurated the theory of incidence algebras (which generalize the 19th-century theory of Möbius inversion), set the umbral calculus on a rigorous foundation, unified the theory of Sheffer sequences and polynomial sequences of binomial type, and worked on fundamental problems in probability theory.

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