Photo Caption: McLaughlin, Ann Arbor, 1963
“Jack is a hard-working and broadly informed algebraist, but the sort of algebra he writes papers about is not the sort I am fond of. Example: he discovered one of the notorious sporadic simple groups. I am a hard-working and quite knowledgeable operator-theorist, and the kind of operator theories that interest me leave Jack completely cold. It turned out, however, that there is a part of mathematics we both know and like. It is a small subject, not considered deep. It has, they say, no intrinsic importance; it is merely a useful tool and an occasional source of examples in other subjects. Both Jack and I tend to be shamefaced about admitting we like it; it is a little like admitting that you read westerns. The subject I am talking about is linear algebra.” —Paul R. Halmos, I Want to Be a Mathematician.
Jack McLaughlin’s research ranged widely, encompassing several subfields of algebra—lattice theory, finite groups, and commutative algebra. He discovered one of the sporadic finite simple groups, that of order 898,128,000, which now bears his name. He also participated in the discovery of a module of finite projective dimension with a negative intersection multiplicity. His work on group cohomology, most of which passed on through the writings of his students, has had an important impact on the field. He was well respected by his colleagues in the field. Paul Halmos, his UM colleague, once said that there are a number of ways to tackle a mathematical problem, but when all else fails, ask McLaughlin.
“Jack McLaughlin (1923 – 2001)”, ContinuUM, The Newsletter of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Michigan (pdf)