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R. L. Moore

Remarks by Professor R.H. Bing about R.L. Moore
on occasion of Dedication of Robert Lee Moore Hall, October 5, 1973.

As a high school teacher, while attending summer school, and with no particular guidance, I enrolled in a course on the Foundations of Geometry under Dr. Moore. I found this course one with much intellectual challenge and mathematical content. Dr. Moore had done fundamental research in the foundations of geometry.

Now any student is fortunate when he has as his teacher a creative researcher, and I was doubly fortunate in that I had both a master teacher and one who had helped develop the field.

During the first half of this century there was a movement to axiomatize the leading branches of mathematics such as algebra, analysis, topology; to discover the fundamental concepts in these subjects; and to abstractly build on these fundamentals in order to logically develop the whole subject. Dr. Moore was one of the leaders who had done significant work in developing the foundations of geometry, set theory, and topology. His colloquium volume "Foundations of Point Set Theory" was a classic reference that topologically characterized the plane and showed the consequences of various subsets of those axioms.

Dr. Moore was a recognized leader whose results were studied both in this country and abroad.

As a student, I was impressed with how important it is to have contact with an active researcher, especially one who is interested in encouraging students to develop. Dr. Moore was a recognized research mathematician, an outstanding teacher,and a rugged individualist. Let me finish by saying something about his impact as a person.

Students soon learned that Dr. Moore was very much on their side and interested in their development. He was proud of the accomplishments of his previous students and interested in the progress of his current students. He encouraged each student to develop his talents. He believed in letting students do their own thinking, learn to do by doing, develop the knack of proving theorems by proving theorems, and enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishment.

I shall venture some observation about some of Dr. Moore's opinions. I have not checked these with Dr. Moore and will not guarantee their accuracy. There is evidence to support each.

Dr. Moore vigorously opposed things that stood in the way of the mathematical development of his students.

He was not in favor of having his students spend excessive time on babysitting, chess, football, or social activities. He felt that such time-consuming activities detracted from concentration a student needed to give mathematics in order to do well. I doubt if he put boxing, pistol practice, fast driving in the same category.

He objected to husbands' permitting their wives to honk outside buildings in which classes were being held or research was being done.

He objected to universities making mediocre appointments, realizing that such bad appointments lead to others. He remarked, "The mediocre prefer the mediocre."

He opposed slovenly dress and behavior and sloppy definitions.

Not always bluntly pointing out the faults in others, he would encourage students to develop positive attitudes of their own by asking such questions as:

What do you think of a man who would say that?
Who would do that?
Who would act in such a way?
What do you think of this definition?
What do you think of a man who would let his wife honk outside a classroom?

Dr. Moore did not take part in all campus issues but became vigorously involved in those he thought were of primary importance. I recall his telling one professor who sought his help on a minor issue, "If I strongly back your cause, I will find a better way of supporting it than by signing your petition."

Dr. Moore could be a strong ally or a formidable opponent.

His strong attitudes had an impact on his students, and I do not know of a more stubborn bunch.

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