James Waddell Alexander

Born: 19 Sept 1888 in Sea Bright, New Jersey, USA
Died: 23 Sept 1971 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA

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James Alexander was a student of Veblen and studied mathematics and physics at Princeton, obtaining a B.S. degree in 1910 and an M.S. degree in 1911. In 1912 he joined the faculty of the mathematics department at Princeton.

Before 1920 he had shown that the homology of a simplicial complex is a topological invariant. Soon after arriving in Princeton, Alexander generalised the Jordan curve theorem and, in 1928, he discovered the Alexander polynomial which is much used in knot theory. In the same year the American Mathematical Society awarded Alexander the Bôcher Prize for his memoir, Combinatorial analysis situs published in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society two years earlier.

From 1933 until he retired in 1951 he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton.

References (2 books/articles)

References elsewhere in this archive:

J W Alexander was the American Mathematical Society Bocher Prize winner in 1928. You can see a history of the AMS Bocher Prize and a list of the winners.

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JOC/EFR October 1997