The following is an excerpt from Scattered Matherticles, Mathematical Reflections – Volume I by Satish C. Bhatnagar
Michael Golberg: A Pure Researcher
“Do you know what he was discussing with me?” asked my colleague in the hallways this morning. I said, “I know it.” “Research problems!” he prompted. We were talking about Michael Golberg (not Goldberg!) whose left leg was amputated three days ago. Fortunately, the right leg is saved for the time being. The legs were infected with gangrene caused by rampage of diabetes. Parting away, I added that Michael lost his leg not to this disease, but to his passion for research. He totally neglected his health.
With my 45-year experience as a math student and professional in India and USA, if I were to identify 2-3 top researchers in mathematics that I have personally known, then Michael is one of them. He came to UNLV from MIT with ABD (All But Dissertation) in 1968. The visiting position that I joined at UNLV in 1974 fall was vacant due to Michael being gone on sabbatical leave.
Academically, UNLV was ranked as Carnegie Master I institution in the 1960s. Teaching 3-4 courses per semester was normal. Research was not even in the air! But Michael was possessed with it. It all came from within, a self-motivator, and beyond the specter of carrot or stick. He was a lone oasis of research in the desert. His incredible quality is to engage any one, with any math background, into his research problems!
Michael went to MIT for PhD after his bachelor’s from Montreal, but left it after strong differences with his supervisor. It is the combustible fuel of anger and frustration that he ploughed back into his researches. A steady stream of quality research papers by an ABD may have ‘embarrassed’ some committee members. A story goes that MIT contacted Michael to submit his published research as PhD thesis. Michael refused, but his wife put his thesis together! Michael never went back to MIT again; the diploma came in the mail.
A saying, that a top researcher is also a top teacher; I haven’t seen it in my life so far. How good Michael was as a teacher? He was always a researcher! A couple of his students, who went on to do PhD in mathematics, told that he covered his on-hand research in every course. He taught only a few upper division and graduate students, and showered them with A grades. Perhaps that was justified by the challenging material.
Michael considered conferences as a waste of time, and avoided airlines. He told me that once a mathematics theorem was proved in aerodynamics, then he would travel by air! But Michael really helped fly the careers of a dozen of persons. He is the author of nearly 200 papers, and 5-6 textbooks, research monographs and proceedings. His co-authors are from an algebraist to a statistician, and any specialization in between.
A colleague once told me that despite ill health Michael can keep 10 mathematicians busy with his research ideas. In 1990, he took early retirement due to medical reasons. He is perhaps the only freelance research mathematician in Nevada!
- Ph.D. in Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1972; Thesis Title: Invariant Imbedding and Ricatti Transformation
- B.Sc. in Mathematical Physics, McGill University, 1962