Information for Researchers
Collection Title: William Arveson papers
Date (inclusive): 1939-2013
Date (bulk): 1965-2007
Collection Number: BANC MSS 2012/140
11.25 linear ft.
The Bancroft Library.
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Abstract: The William Arveson papers document his career as a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics at the University of California,
Berkeley from 1969 to 2011. Professor Arveson was a leading expert and original researcher in the theory of operators and
operator algebras, areas with close ties to physics, especially to quantum theory. The collection is arranged into eight series:
Correspondence, Writings, Lectures and Seminars, Teaching Materials (including UCLA, Harvard and UCB), UCB Departmental Files,
Professional Files, Research Files, and Biographical Materials.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], William Arveson Papers, BANC MSS 2012/140, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Alternative Form of Materials Available
There are no alternate forms of this collection.
Removed or Separated Material
Digital material transferred to Bancroft Digital Collections.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
University of California, Berkeley. Department of Mathematics.
Mathematicians -- United States.
Mathematics -- Research.
Mathematics -- Study and teaching.
University of California, Berkeley -- Faculty.
The William Arveson papers were donated to the Library by Lee Ann Kaskutas on April 24, 2012. Additional materials were received
on June 14, 2012.
No additions are expected.
Processed by Bancroft Library staff in 2013.
William Barnes Arveson was born in Oakland, California on November 22, 1934. His parents divorced when he was just a year
old and moved separately to Southern California, leaving Arveson in Oakland in the care of his maternal grandmother. Arveson's
mother remarried when he was in high school, at which point he moved to San Gabriel, California where he attended Alhambra
High, graduating in 1952.
After high school Arveson enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He scored very highly on the Navy’s placement test, giving him his choice
of naval jobs. He chose to study radar technology. After training he spent three years on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific
as the carrier’s repairman. At the end of his naval service Arveson was encouraged to make a career of the Navy. He decided
instead to go to college.
After two years at Pasadena City College, Arveson transferred to the California Institute of Technology. He graduated from
CalTech with a B.S. in Mathematics in 1960, whereupon he entered the graduate mathematics program at the University of California,
Los Angeles. He earned his M.A. in 1963 and his Ph.D. in 1964. While at UCLA, Arveson maintained his navy connection serving
as a Mathematician G7 in 1960-1961 and as a Mathematician G12 in fall 1965 at the Naval Undersea Research and Development
Center in Pasadena, California.
After receiving his Ph.D. in the fall of 1964, Arveson stayed at UCLA in spring 1965 as an Acting Assistant Professor. In
the period 1965-1968 he served as a Benjamin Pierce Instructor at Harvard University. The University of California, Berkeley,
hired Arveson as a Lecturer in Mathematics in 1968 but quickly promoted him to Associate Professor in 1969 and then to Professor
in 1974. Arveson became Emeritus Professor upon his retirement in 2003.
Professor Arveson had visiting positions in the US and world-wide, including UCLA, UCSD, Pennsylvania, Newcastle (UK), Aarhus
(Denmark), Oslo and Trondheim (Norway), Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Canberra, Rio de Janeiro, Tianjin (China), and Kyoto. He also
received two Miller research professor awards at Berkeley. Arveson strongly inspired and influenced many researchers through
his teaching, writing, and lecturing. An elegant expositor who took great care with his writing, he published 79 scholarly
manuscripts and authored eight books on C*-algebras, operator algebras, spectral theory, and noncommutative dynamics. His
editorial services included the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, Proceedings of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society,
Duke Mathematical Journal, and three decades as Editor of the Journal of Operator Theory (Romania).
Arveson was committed to the mentorship of young mathematicians, of whom 29 wrote their doctoral dissertations under his guidance.
Many of them went on to be prominent research mathematicians in their own right. Arveson was a leading expert and a highly
innovative researcher in the area of operator algebras spearheaded by the famous John Von Neumann, an area of mathematics
that underlies quantum physics and can be traced back to Heisenberg's formulation of quantum mechanics. Arveson pioneered
the exploration of certain mysterious structures that arise in a basic way from the modeling of the irreversible dynamics
of quantum systems, for example, the creation and annihilation of particles such as electrons and the strange particles found
in cosmic rays. In the 1990's he opened a new front in his research with highly original ideas for applying seemingly unrelated
abstract mathematics to the efficient calculation of important quantities in quantum physics. Arveson's important contributions
continued to flow and began to include applications of quantum spaces to quantum information theory and quantum computing.
Arveson loved jazz and taught himself to play the saxophone while serving on an aircraft carrier. He also loved the movies
and went to a matinee every Sunday. Arveson and his wife, Lee Ann were aficionados of miniature dachshunds and they enjoyed
taking their dogs with them on holidays to Sea Ranch.
At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife of 26 years, Lee Ann Kaskutas, by his sons Jeff and Robert from a previous
marriage, and by his miniature dachshund Bronco.
Derived from an obituary appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle (November 27, 2011), as well as the University of California
Academic Senate “In Memoriam” essay for Professor Arveson (2012).
Scope and Content Note
William Barnes Arveson served as a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley
from 1969 to 2011. Professor Arveson was a leading expert and original researcher in the theory of operators and operator
algebras, areas with close ties to physics, especially to quantum theory.
The collection is arranged into eight series: Correspondence, Writings, Lectures and Seminars, Teaching Materials (including
UCLA, Harvard and UCB), UCB Departmental Files, Professional Files, Research Files, and Biographical Materials.
Correspondence contains letters to and from notable mathematicians from academic institutions nationally and internationally;
correspondents include Niels T. Andersen, Constantin Apostol, Earl Berkson, Rajendra Bhatia, John Bunce, Brian Col, Joaquin
Curiel, Art G. Duncan, Paul Halmos, Richard Kadison, Jitka Křížková, Zeller Meier, Wlodzimierz Mlak, Pete Rosenthal, Cedwin
F. Schubert, Allen Shields, Erling Stormer, Anthony C. Thompson and Dan Voiculescu. In addition, there are letters from personal
friends, including Patricia and Darrin Smith and Ziva and Morry Zippin.
Writings include the complete published papers of Professor Arveson, starting in 1966 with “A theorem on the action of abelian
unitary groups” and concluding in 2011 with “Helson and subdiagonal operator algebras” in a tribute to Henry Helson. This
series also includes the various unpublished papers of Professor Arveson.
Lectures and Seminars include transcripts of talks Arveson delivered at academic institutions around the world--in England,
China, France, Norway, Italy, Israel, Japan, Denmark, among other locales--as well as throughout the United States. These
talks reveal Professor Arveson’s leading authority in the area of operator theory research. This series is well represented
by detailed mathematical notations used by Professor Arveson for each of these various lectures.
Teaching Materials include comprehensive lecture notes for UCLA (1965), Harvard (1965-1968) and UC Berkeley (1968-2011).
UCB Departmental files contain administrative information such as qualifying exams, admissions, personnel committee notes,
teaching evaluations and information on international exchange scholars. Professor Arveson acted in the role of faculty associate,
supporting such international exchange scholars as Rajendra Bhatia of India.
Professional Files contain requests from the American Mathematical Society to Professor Arveson to arrange special sessions
and give lectures and presentations on operator theory. Also documented are the annual joint Summer Research Conferences put
on by the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) and the Society for Industrial
and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).
In addition, Professional Files contain publishing and royalties’ information, as well as grants and fellowships awarded to
Professor Arveson by the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science and the National
Science Foundation. Professor Arveson was the principal investigator for grants from the National Science Foundation during
most of his career at Berkeley. Arveson served as National Research Council Research Fellow in 1971 at the University of Newcastle,
England. He served as a Visiting Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark during 1973-1974, and at the University of California,
San Diego in 1974-1975. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship for 1976-1977, and in 1985-1986 and 1999-2000 he held a prestigious
Miller Professorship at the University of California, Berkeley.
Professor Arveson served the mathematics community as editor of several major journals. His positions included Principal Editor
of the Journal of Operator Theory, Consulting Editor of the Journal of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, Associate Editor
of the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, and Associate Editor of the Duke Mathematical Journal. He also served
a term as treasurer of the Pacific Journal of Mathematics.
The Research files are quite extensive and wide-ranging, dating from 1974 to 2006. Professor Arveson’s primary interests were
in functional analysis and operator algebras, as spearheaded by the famous John Von Neumann. The basic theory of two classes
of such algebras, called C*- algebras and Von Neumann algebras both possess a property called self-adjointness. Professor
Arveson set out to develop a theory of such algebras, and much of his early work focused on this project establishing him
as a world leader in this area.
Biographical materials include Professor Arveson’s curriculum vitae, his dissertation titled “Prediction Theory and Group
Representations” (1964), biographical sketches, memorial essays, and a photograph album beginning with Professor Arveson as
a young boy in Oakland in 1939, progressing through his life as a professor and lecturer. The last photographs date from 2007.