Obituary Prof Dr Uwe Helmke

On March 1st our highly regarded
colleague and chairholder Uwe Helmke
passed away unexpectedly at the age of 63.

Uwe Helmke was an internationally recognized scientific leader with a sustained record of research publications across many areas of mathematical control theory. He published six books, more than 100 peer reviewed journal papers, 28 book chapters and more than 70 international conference papers. As an editor of six leading international scientific journals and co-organizer of numerous conferences, workshops and summer schools his professional network spanned the globe. Together with F. Allgöwer he succeeded in bringing many internationally leading control theorists to the recent annual meetings at the Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach. In recognition of his track record he was, amongst other honours, elected IEEE Fellow in 2009 and Member of the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Bavarian Academy of Science) in 2014.

Uwe Helmke studied Mathematics and Physics at the University of Bremen and completed his PhD there in 1983 under the supervision of D. Hinrichsen. His PhD thesis on algebraic system theory was titled "Zur Topologie des Raumes linearer Kontrollsysteme" (On the topology of the space of linear control systems). He completed his habilitation on "The Cohomology of Moduli Spaces of Linear Dynamical Systems" in 1991 in the real algebraic geometry research group of M. Kneebusch at the University of Regensburg. Since 1995 he held the Chair for Dynamical Systems and Control Theory at the JMU Würzburg. Here he served periods as Dean of the Faculty for Mathematics and Computer Science, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Science and Technology and founding member and Director of the Interdisziplinäres Forschungszentrums für Mathematik in Naturwissenschaft und Technik (Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Mathematical Applications in Science and Technology).

Uwe's enthusiasm for mathematics was highly infectious for both his students and colleagues. He ignored the traditional boundaries between pure and applied mathematics and effortlessly strayed into neighbouring areas of science and engineering. In his impressive work, he repeatedly distilled the mathematical core of applied research problems and recasted their mathematical essence into rigorous theorems and formulas. His area of research was unusually broad within the spectrum of mathematical control theory with an emphasis on algebraic system theory and geometric control. His monograph "Optimization and Dynamical Systems", co-authored with J.B. Moore and published in 1994, is now a standard reference that contains his most important results in the area of dynamical systems and their application to optimization on manifolds. His most recent area of interest was in networked systems and lead to the monograph "The Mathematics of Networks of Linear Systems", co-authored with P.A. Fuhrmann and published in 2015. His research touched on many application areas including neural networks, signal processing, robotics, computer vision and quantum control.

Uwe's ability to inspire and his talent for clear presentation of new concepts meant that he was always a highly welcome guest speaker at conferences and colloquia worldwide. During his numerous international research visits he worked with leaders in mathematical control theory resulting in a large number of joint publications with B.D.O. Anderson (Australia), C.I. Byrnes (USA), P.A. Fuhrmann (Israel), J.B. Moore (Australia) and J. Rosenthal (Switzerland). His close connection to Australia and his deep friendship with P.A. Fuhrmann played a special role throughout his career.

With Uwe Helmke we lose an esteemed scientist, colleague and friend.


Institut für Mathematik    Campus Hubland Nord    97074 Würzburg    Tel. 0931/31-85004