23 August 2021

Obituary of Asmus Schmidt


Our longtime colleague, associate professor Asmus Schmidt has passed away. His work manifested itself in research, teaching and administration.

Asmus SchmidtAsmus Schmidt got his high school diploma from Ribe Katedralskole in 1955 and began his mathematics studies at the University of Copenhagen the same year. He took a magisterkonferens (i.e. cand.mag. et mag.scient.) in mathematics in February 1960. The same year he became a teaching assistant at the Department of Mathematics. After some temporary positions, he obtained an associate professorship at the Department of Mathematics in 1966, which he retained until he retired in 2003. 

Asmus had two long-term study/research stays: In 1962 he was in Cambridge where he got in touch with J.W.S.Cassels and Alan Baker. The academic year 1980-1981 he spent in Princeton at the invitation of the Institute for Advanced Study.

Number theory

Right from the start, his main interest was in number theory. Already as a Master student in 1959, he published a simple new proof of a theorem by Hurwitz concerning diophantine approximations of real numbers by rational numbers.

He achieved his international breakthrough with his major article in Acta Mathematica (1975). The paper provides the first approach to generalizing the theory of continued fraction to the complex numbers and builds heavily on previous results by Asmus. Later works provided i.a. explicit results regarding diophantine approximations in imaginary quadratic fields.

Furthermore, it should be mentioned that Asmus made a major contribution to the publication of the Fenchel-Nielsen manuscript as the book "Discontinuous groups of isometries in the hyperbolic plane", de Gruyter Studies in Mathematics vol 29, 2003. Asmus was the editor and was involved in the project for a number of years - a great and selfless effort.

Asmus was a very popular teacher. For example, he accompanied his lectures in number theory with an excellent set of lecture notes “Algebraisk Teori". Through his inspiring teaching, he attracted quite a few Master thesis students.

Already early in his career, he showed his interest in the dissemination of mathematical subjects through the book "Kædebrøker" published in 1967 by the Association of Mathematics Teachers.

Head of Department

Also in university administration, Asmus made a great effort: He was head of department from 1983 to 1987, and being a skilled negotiator, he contributed significantly to the establishment of a collaboration with Copenhagen Business School. The teaching at CBS helped the department get through a very difficult period with many financial cuts. Finally, Asmus was strongly involved in the extension of the mathematics building with a fourth floor and ensured that this was carried out in accordance with the wishes of the department.

He was married to Gunni Schmidt, a highly regarded high school teacher at Rungsted Statsskole. Gunni and Asmus were old classmates who both started studying mathematics in 1955. They celebrated their golden wedding in 2013. Gunni died in 2016. Asmus passed away on Sunday, August 15, 2021