My cousin Jon Borwein

My cousin, Jon Borwein died unexpectedly. Though I hadn’t seen him in quite a few years, his part of the family though not actually close cousins (there was some arcane mathematical formula by which we could calculate our cousin relationship–I think it involved the square root of a negative number divided by borscht squared) have always felt very close to us and our families have always made a point of connecting over several continents. Somehow as the B*rw*ns (Borwein is the non-Anglicized version of Barwin) moved across the globe, there has always been the sense that we were in this together.

Jon was a renowned mathematician. Though clearly the specifics of his work were beyond my understanding, his approach to it was very inspiring to me. Through math, he made the wonder, mystery, elegance, delight, and beauty of the world, of the inquiring intellect and of knowledge and discovery itself very apparent. When with him, he had that gift of being “present,” of valuing your interaction with him, of connecting to you in his inimitable way. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more inquisitive and penetrating intellect, though I’ve also never met anyone who would talk about genital crabs when a guest at a passover dinner. 😉 Also, though he was able to roam through the very abstract world of experimental mathematics, it was so apparent how much love of family was important to him and fundamentally at the centre of his life.
[Gary Barwin, Hamilton, Ontario]

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