William Abikoff is Professor of Mathematics at the
University of Connecticut at Storrs. He was born in New York
City and received most of his education at the Bronx High School
of Science. He later took a couple of degrees in electrical
engineering at (what is now called) the Polytechnic
Institute of New York University. While an honors undergrad at
Poly, he and a friend designed and built a control system for
quadriplegics. Since undergrads didn't do much research or
design at that time, it got a lot of press; see, for example,
the article that appeared in the New
York Times.

In 1965, armed with a fresh Master's degree, he became a Member of Technical Staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill and later Holmdel, New Jersey. In 1970, he received a doctorate in mathematics from the Polytechnic and became a research instructor at Columbia University. The following year he spent at the Institut Mittag-Leffler in Sweden lamenting a startling lack of new ideas -- ever since, he has lived off the few that did occur to him then. He returned to Columbia to find that his chair had been promoted in his absence and the next three years he dwelt as an assistant professor there. He was also Departmental Representative (undergraduate chair) for two of those years. In 1975, he became an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana and spent the following year as a fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a member of the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques outside Paris. Again being away seemed to be fortuitous --- hopefully not necessary --- since he was promoted and tenured in his absence. In 1981 he moved to the University of Connecticut as professor. Since then he has been honored by membership in the Institute for Advanced Study. At the Institute, he noted that he was the oldest mathematician not participating in a special program and far younger than any of the resident humanists or social scientists. More recently, he was a Lady Davis Senior Fellow and Visiting Professor at the Technion -- the Israel Institute of Technology.

His mathematical interests have centered on the interaction
of classical geometry and complex analysis. He has written three
books, not a best-seller among them. His early interest in
physics was rekindled by inquiries from physicists seeking to
understand the mathematics behind string theory and, later, knot
theory and, in Ed Witten's formulation, the Chern-Simons theory.
One of his books was, at the time, the most recent study of a
key mathematical ingredient, Teichmüller Theory, in those
theories.

Pure Luck.