Remembering Henry Crapo

Friday, October 25, 2019

Henry Crapo

Henry Crapo, 2007. Credit: James Oxley, The Matroid Union

We are sad to share that Henry Crapo passed away on September 3, 2019. Henry was a professor in the Faculty of Mathematics between 1965-1977.

“He was a colourful member of the department, with a wide variety of interests outside mathematics,” remembered Professor Emeritus Stanley Burris.

For part of his time in Waterloo Henry and his family lived in the Tutor’s Residence in Village along with their two cocker spaniels, Husband and Wife. He also owned the original house that housed the CKWR community radio station, and was director of the station from 1971-1976.

Born in Detroit on August 12, 1932, we know that Henry completed his PhD at MIT under Gian-Carlo Rota, and once served as a navigator in the US Navy. He wrote the first text in matroid theory, written jointly with Rota and attended the first conference in matroid theory in Washington in 1964, where Bill Tutte was also in attendance.

He made several contributions to the study of matroid theory, including a paper in 1969 called The Tutte polynomial while at Waterloo. (A more detailed account of Henry’s work can be found in a reminiscence by James Oxley in The Matroid Union.) After he left Waterloo, He then moved east to teach at the University of Montreal for a couple of years before moving on to Inria Racquencourt, LaChesney, France. He retired from CAMS, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

Henry left a legacy at Waterloo. He donated the boar that today sits in the Faculty of Arts quad to the Faculty of Mathematics’ Descartes Foundation. You can also find a sizeable special collection of rare materials related to the history of dance and ballet, as well as two binders of notes regarding the Vestris Prize for Choreography compiled by Henry when he was a Trustee of the Wasemquia Charitable Trust in the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room.