In memory of Prof. Benjamin Levikson

Obituary by Prof. Esther Frostig

 

Benny was among the first teachers and researchers in the Department of Statistics at Haifa University, and one of the first researchers in actuarial sciences in Israel. Benny was a unique person, both as a man and as a scientist and teacher. His sudden untimely death left his friends shocked, grieving and longing.

 As a man, Benny was distinguished in his simple ways, the empathy he had for people, his patience and understanding of others. His view of various situations was comprehensive and wise, and we will all miss his comments and advice. As a scientist, Benny distinguished himself in his deep view of the problems he researched. Still, he always aspired to deal with these problems in the most direct and simple way possible.

The reader of this book will discover a scientist whose interests are varied and who does not concentrate on a narrow scientific field. Benny started his career working on mathematical problems in Genetics and in Biology. Then he worked on problems pertaining to the Theory of Approximation. In both these areas his achievements were impressive. Later on, Benny worked in the fields of Applied Probability and Operations Research, focusing on problems of Reliability and Queues. When the Actuarial Science program opened in the Department of Statistics, Benny was the first of our researchers in this field. His research and teaching in this area continued until his untimely death. Benny shared his enthusiasm and the knowledge that he had gained with his colleagues and numerous graduate students. His articles, some of which have been published after his death, testify to the quality of his work that was prematurely interrupted.

Benny was born in Givatayim, on the 28th of October 1947, where he graduated from the Alcalay high school in the mathematical stream and continued his academic studies at Tel-Aviv University. He completed his studies for a Bachelors degree in "Mathematics-Statistics" in 1969. He received his Masters degree "with distinction" in mathematics in 1971.

 In 1974 he completed his Ph.D thesis on "The Effects of Random Environment on the Evolutionary process of Gene Frequencies-A Mathematical Analysis," under the supervision of Professor Samuel Karlin. During those years he taught various courses in probability and statistics as a teaching assistant. From the beginning of his academic career he was known as an excellent and devoted teacher and his classes where always full. In the years 1975-1977 he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Mathematics at Purdue University. In the year 1977 he returned to Israel and joined the Department of Statistics at the University of Haifa. In the years 1978-80 and 1986-1988 he served as the departmental head. In the years 1982-1984 he was a Visiting Associate Professor at the Department of Statistics and Operations Research at the Graduate Business School of New York University. Benny also spent time as a Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge, the Actuarial Department of City University, London and at Wroclaw University, Poland.