Barry Mazur ’54

Decades after graduation, Barry Mazur is still Bronx Science strong


Johan Wichterle

Barry Mazur accepts a plaque for his induction into the Hall of Fame from the current principal of Bronx Science, Dr. Donahue.

Mathematician, professor, and Bronx Science alumnus Barry Mazur ’54 now holds several prestigious awards, including the Veblen Prize, the Cole Prize, and the National Medal of Science for his work in the field of mathematics. However, he was once just an average high school student with an unmatched appreciation of math and science.

On February 5, 2018, Mazur returned to Bronx Science for his induction into the Hall of Fame. Mazur remembers his time as a student fondly. “My favorite memory was the people. This is an extraordinary, energetic, and motivated intellectual environment where you can follow your thoughts in any direction you want, and people would be receptive, they would be helpful, they would be cheering you on, and that’s the great thing about Bronx Science.” Mazur explains that his time at Bronx Science was influenced by all that it had to offer: the people, the progressive ideas, and the educators.

Unsurprisingly, Mazur is a man of many interests. When Mazur was asked what one of his most memorable recollections of his time in Bronx Science is, he mentioned how a book had inspired most of his summertime adventures, “we read a novel that was popular back then, called, ‘U.S.A.’ by John Dos Passos, where the hero of the novel decides to learn about America. And that was part of my project, actually. I wanted to learn about America,” he continued, explaining, “ So, what do you do to learn about America? The hero of the novel took jobs, everywhere. We were going to take many jobs and learn what America was really like. Now, you can’t take too many jobs when you’re in high school. But in the summer, you can now, and a little bit during high school. We would do that, we would follow our project.”

Mazur and his friend took on a multitude of jobs during the summer time, ranging from being a farmhand to a stevedore on the Hudson River. Although he now leads a very different lifestyle, he believes that his time spent as a highschooler assuming different summertime jobs was of importance to his development as a person. “So during the summer, I was a farm hand a number of times, I was a door to door salesman, I was a stevedore on the Hudson River Pier 13. And every time, after we spent however many weeks, and sometimes months on the job, we would convene again and tell each other what we had done, but we never really wrote one word. But our project was being writers in America.”

One of the greatest influences on Mazur’s math career was his high school math teacher, Mr. Lepkowski. Mazur proclaimed, “Mr. Lepkowski was quite different, and he reminded me a lot of my early days in Yeshiva, where the rabbis would always say, ‘Think of knowledge as an infinite cheese, and we’re all mice nibbling at it. And your teachers are mice, they’re bigger, and the students are mice, but they’re all nibbling at the infinite cheese of knowledge! Now, they won’t devour it, but it’s that effort’… I learned a lot from him.”

Although Mazur had intentions of becoming a HAM radio operator, he found his true calling in math after exploring all that Bronx Science had to offer academically. It was only after Bronx Science, however, that Mazur truly honed his prowess as a mathematician by attending the famous STEM university, M.I.T. After M.I.T, he went on to Princeton University where he received his Ph.D., and soon after became a junior fellow at Harvard University, where he has remained since. Within years, he had become the Gerhard Gade University professor at Harvard, and eventually, a senior fellow.

Currently, Mazur holds multiple prestigious awards to his name: the Veblen Prize, the Cole Prize, and the National Medal of Science for his work in the field of mathematics. Mazur received the Veblen prize for his work in the field of geometry and the Cole Prize for his contributions to the current understanding of number theory.

“We all have our own talents. Your talents are your own talents, and my talents are my own.” 

In 2013, former president-elect Barack Obama presented Mazur with the National Medal of Science, one of the most prestigious awards a person can receive for their contributions to science.

Mazur is currently continuing his research on number theory. Number theory is generally defined as the field of mathematics that deals with patterns between integers, albeit, usually positive integers.

When asked what advice he would offer current Bronx Science students, Mazur replied, explaining that everyone has their own unique set of idiosyncratic traits which they should freely explore.

Mazur is truly an inspiration for many Bronx Science students; his creativity, depth of understanding, and knowledge are a motivation for all to strive towards emulating in our own lives.

Johan Wichterle
Barry Mazur ‘54 answers questions about his career for The Survey, the Bronx Science newspaper.












Johan Wichterle
Barry Mazur is being interviewed by Maya Parness, the salutatorian of the class of 2018.












Johan Wichterle
Barry Mazur enjoys a sandwich and a cup of coffee during his interview.















Johan Wichterle
Barry Mazur elaborates upon his current mathematical research in front of an audience of current Bronx Science students.