Dimitry Fon-der-Flass Dmitry
8 September 1962
10 June 2010

Dmitry Fon der Flaass died in June after battling for half a year with esophageal cancer. He was 48 years old.

Dima was a mathematical prodigy. As a child, he won a bronze medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad, although he was the youngest participant that year. He had no further opportunity to participate in any subsequent olympiads, since he started his university career at age 14, ultimately defending his Ph.D. thesis on subgroups of finite groups. He became a living legend then in part because his dissertation was just a few pages long.


Dima had little interest in material goods; for example, he never owned an apartment or a house, but he treasured good mathematics, literature, music, and good friends.


For the over twenty-five years of his life as an active mathematician, working at the Sobolev Institute of Mathematics in Novosibirsk, Russia, Dima produced many beautiful results in a variety of mathematical disciplines, such as group theory, coding theory, algebraic combinatorics, and graph theory. Some of his most known contributions to mathematics include the studies of regular structures such as distance-regular graphs and perfect colorings, as well as the introduction of so-called crooked functions used in combinatorics and cryptography.


Dima was not only a researcher, but also a passionate teacher. He trained schoolchildren for mathematics olympiads, leading various international teams from Russia, Great Britain, Kazakhstan and Korea. He organized summer mathematics schools, and communicated with young people about mathematics via his online blog.


Those of us who knew Dima personally will miss his kind smile, readiness to help and his shiny optimism, which did not fade even during his last days.


Written by M. Axenovich and A. Kostochka, 20 September 2010