In memoriam: Martial Agueh

Science

It is with great sadness that the Department of Mathematics and Statistics announces the passing of Dr. Martial Agueh, age 47, on Sept. 14.

Agueh was known for his radiant smile, his generosity and collegiality. His lectures were models of clarity that impressed even internationally renowned mathematicians. He spoke loudly, wrote clearly, and his enthusiasm and love for his research were contagious.

“I always looked forward to our meetings, where we spent hours trying to solve difficult problems,” says Louis-Philip Saumiers, a former graduate student of Agueh’s. “His energy and positive attitude were contagious. He was someone I could go to for anything. He helped me become who I am.”

Agueh was born and grew up in Benin, West Africa. He completed his bachelors in mathematics and a postgraduate diploma (DEA) in mathematical physics in his home country, before joining Georgia Tech for a PhD in applied mathematics. He came to UVic in 2005 after completing two post-docs, one at UBC and another at Carnegie Mellon University.

“I was his postdoctoral supervisor at UBC, yet I learned more from him,” says Dr. Nassif Ghoussoub. “Martial earned everything he got in life, often the hard way, yet he was the most generous of friends. He went back to Benin often with his thesis supervisor to teach and mentor the new generation of African mathematicians.”

Martial’s area of research was in partial differential equations, a branch of applied mathematics sometimes known as mathematical physics. His main expertise was in the theory of optimal transport, originally formulated in the late 18th century but revived in the last twenty years by French mathematicians including the Fields medalist Cedric Villani. Martial’s contributions came in the form of very clever applications of this theory in many different areas of applied mathematics, most of which are original and unique.

This originality in his research made him popular in his field and he was regularly invited to workshops and conferences worldwide. He spent substantial time in France, Spain, South Korea, Australia, Italy, and Africa among other places, as well as all over Canada and the US, making friends and collaborations wherever he went.

“I remember very well when I met Martial for the first time,” says long-time collaborator Guillaume Carlier, a professor at the University of Paris. “I was immediately impressed by Martial’s unique style and enthusiasm, his natural authority and his passion for mathematics. We became friends a few years after, when Martial was in Vancouver and we really started working together after a meeting in Banff in 2008. Well, the word ‘working’ is maybe not the most appropriate one, indeed doing math with Martial was so much fun! Martial was always optimistic and had a great taste for a variety of challenging problems and was extremely generous in exchanging ideas.”

Agueh volunteered with many charitable organizations and initiatives including Operation Trackshoes, which organizes sporting and entertainment activities for people with developmental disabilities, as well as the Knights of Columbus, running soccer and basketball tournaments for young kids. He was devoted to his church where he spent much of his time helping those in need.

It will be hard to forget his big smile. He was always cheerful, rain or shine, and everybody loved to be around him and work with him. Agueh’s death is a tremendous loss to the department, to UVic, and to Canadian mathematics.

Agueh's funeral service will be held at 12:10 p.m. on Friday, October 7, 2016 at St Patrick's Church in Victoria.

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Keywords: in memorium, mathematics, administrative


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