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Donald C. Spencer

Donald Spencer
Born (1912-04-25)April 25, 1912
Boulder, Colorado
Died December 23, 2001(2001-12-23) (aged 89)
Durango, Colorado
Nationality American
Institutions Princeton University
Alma mater University of Colorado
University of Cambridge
Doctoral advisor J. E. Littlewood and G.H. Hardy
Doctoral students Pierre Conner
Phillip Griffiths
Robert Hermann
Joseph J. Kohn
Patrick X. Gallagher
Alan Louis Mayer
Notable awards Bôcher Memorial Prize (1948)
National Medal of Science (1989)

Donald Clayton Spencer (April 25, 1912 – December 23, 2001) was an American mathematician, known for work on deformation theory of structures arising in differential geometry, and on several complex variables from the point of view of partial differential equations. He was born in Boulder, Colorado, and educated at the University of Colorado and MIT.

He wrote a Ph.D. in diophantine approximation under J. E. Littlewood and G.H. Hardy at the University of Cambridge, completed in 1939. He had positions at MIT and Stanford before his appointment in 1950 at Princeton University. There he was involved in a series of collaborative works with Kunihiko Kodaira on the deformation of complex structures, which had some influence on the theory of complex manifolds and algebraic geometry, and the conception of moduli spaces.

He also was led to formulate the d-bar Neumann problem, for the operator


(see complex differential form) in PDE theory, to extend Hodge theory and the n-dimensional Cauchy-Riemann equations to the non-compact case. This is used to show existence theorems for holomorphic functions.

He later worked on pseudogroups and their deformation theory, based on a fresh approach to overdetermined systems of PDEs (bypassing the Cartan-Kähler ideas based on differential forms by making an intensive use of jets). Formulated at the level of various chain complexes, this gives rise to what is now called Spencer cohomology, a subtle and difficult theory both of formal and of analytical structure. This is a kind of Koszul complex theory, taken up by numerous mathematicians during the 1960s. In particular a theory for Lie equations formulated by Malgrange emerged, giving a very broad formulation of the notion of integrability.

After his death, a mountain peak outside of Silverton, Colorado was named in his honor.[1]


  • See also 1
  • Publications 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

See also


  • Schiffer, M. M.; Spencer, D. C. (1955), Functionals of Finite Riemann Surfaces, [2] 
  • Nickerson, H. K.; Spencer, D. C.; Steenrod, N. E. (1959), Advanced Calculus, Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand [3]Dover reprint. 2011.  
  • Kumpera, A.; Spencer, D. C. (1972), Lie Equations: Volume I, General Theory, AM-73, Annals of Mathematical Studies, Princeton University Press,  
  • Kumpera, A.; Spencer, D. C. (1974), Systems of Linear Partial Differential Equations and Deformation of Pseudogroup Structures, Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal 


  1. ^ Pankratz, Howard (2008-08-18). "Spencer peak added to Colorado mountain lexicon". Denver Post. Retrieved 2011-07-23. 
  2. ^  
  3. ^  

External links

  • "Donald C. Spencer (1912–2001)" (PDF). Notices of the American Mathematical Society 51 (1). January 2004. 
  • Donald C. Spencer at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  • .  
  • "Donald C. Spencer, 89, Pioneering Mathematician, Dies".  

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