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Israel Gelfand – a Documentary

Israel Gelfand – a Documentary

A Work In Progress:

Israel Gelfand is considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century.  He was also my father.  His significant contributions to mathematics are countless, unusually varied, and transformative.  Or so I had been told.  Among his achievements were well-known works in cell biology, joint works with medical doctors, and collaborations with physicists. Gelfand published over 800 papers and 30 books.  I can count on one hand how many of those I read.    He developed a revolutionary approach to teaching children advanced mathematics. And as his daughter, I was the beneficiary.

There is an Indian parable about the Blind Men and the Elephant. Six blind men wanted to learn what an elephant was. Each one touched a different part of the elephant’s body and claimed to know what an elephant was. And although each was partly right, not one of them had grasped what is an elephant.

The parable forgot to mention that it isn’t any easier for the daughter of the elephant to describe the elephant.

Who was he?

Five years after my father’s passing, with great trepidation, I find myself on a journey to find out who my father was. Where he came from. And how he came to immigrate with his new family to America, at the age of 76.

Only five years after Israel passed do I dare ask the questions that I have never dared to ask my father.

Papa, tell me your story. Tell me, where did you come from?

Israel Gelfand with daughter, Tatiana