[In November of 1971, Bob Lohman and Joe Diestel planned to go to the Informal Functional Analysis Seminar in Crawfordsville, Indiana being held at Wabash College.] The scheduled speakers were Mahlon Day and Paul Halmos, a double treat.  With rooms and Kent State Pool Vehicle reserved we were ready to go.  Unfortunately, it was November in NE Ohio and when the time to go arrived it was several hours after a blizzard hit this region of the country.


The downside was no trip for Bob and me; the upside was we wondered whether or not we couldn't have an Informal Seminar of our own.  After all, all the major thoroughfares in this section of the country run near to Kent, so transportation shouldn't be a major problem. 

What about participants?

We got on the phone and called Bill Davis at Ohio State, Juan Schaffer at Carnegie-Mellon and Henry Cohen at the University of Pittsburgh all of whom sounded enthusiastic and so we

started organizing the first such seminar for mid-January of 1972.  We sent out flyers
announcing the first seminar flooding the area's colleges and universities with information about the seminar and its goals.  The plans were for Bill Johnson (then an Assistant Professor at Ohio State) and Richard Varga ( a University Professor at Kent State) to lead off the seminar; at the last minute Professor Varga was unable to speak and a substitute, Joe Diestel, spoke.


More than 30 mathematicians attended this initial seminar held in White Hall on the Kent State campus.  Various refreshments were made available (free of charge) and an informal atmosphere was quickly established.  It was decided that the seminar should meet every

month and speakers should be chosen from the region as well as visitors to the departments throughout the region.  In our second meeting Bill Davis (from OSU) and Professor Fredrickson (from Thunder Bay) were the speakers and more than 40 attended.  Word was spreading and in our next seminar, David Dean (of OSU) and Richard Varga were the attractors; again, more than 40 attended.  The early success of the seminar carried with it the notion that it should continue to be held several times a quarter.  And so it did for a number of years. 


The years 1972-1973 were particularly critical years in the development of Banach Space

Theory and the Informal Seminar reflected such.  Among those who spoke at the seminar

one could find Tadek Figiel, Per Enflo, Zbigniew Semadeni, Olek Pelczynski, Jerry Uhl, Henry Cohen, Juan Schafer and Kondagunta Sundaresan among the speakers. The seminar was a main motivating factor to a proposal to NSF for a CBMS conference with Ivan Singer as the main speaker, a proposal that was funded and lead to seminar participants making the acquaintance of a number of specialists in Banach Space theory, such as Yehoram Gordon, Dan Lewis, R. C. James and Bob Phelps.


By the summer of '73, there had been
fundamental breakthroughs in the study of the

Radon-Nikodym property in Banach spaces, advances that made it clear that this was a

basic geometric structural property of a Banach space.  As a result the seminar's speakers reflected this advance and through 1974-75 many speakers discussed some aspect of the

RNP in talks at the seminar.  Finally in February of 1975, it was decided that a weekend-long seminar was in order.  The result was nothing short of astonishing--more than 75 mathematicians attended.  Speakers included Haskell Rosenthal, Ted Odell, Bob Huff, Peter Morris, Bob Phelps, Isaac Namioka, Gerry Edgar, Bob James, Jerry Uhl and Heinrich Lotz.

During the spring of '75, our Ohio State contingent announced that Olek Pelczynski was

going to spend 1975-76 in Columbus.  The idea of another CBMS conference with Pelczynski as the speaker was floated and Professor Pelczynski agreed to lecture.  Our proposal was funded and in the summer of '76 Olek gave 10 lectures on absolutely summing operators and spaces of analytic functions.  Complementing his lectures were lectures by Bob James, Bob Phelps, Dan Lewis, Joram LindenstraussHaskell Rosenthal, Walter Rudin, Bob Kaufman, Lior Tzafriri, Tadek Figiel and Allen Shields devoted to advances in and around the topics of Pelczynski's lectures.  A volume of Springer's Lecture Notes in Mathematics contained some of the contributions (we also ran some sessions for contributed talks).


Pelczynski's lectures had an enormous beneficial effect on the subject of Banach spaces redirecting many younger mathematicians' attentions towards problems in classical and harmonic analysis where the ideas and methods of Banach space theory might offer insight. 

The success of this CBMS conference soon led to the idea of having a larger conference with 'Banach spaces and classical analysis' as the central theme.  This was a topic of frequent discussion over the next couple years at meetings of the Informal Functional Analysis Seminar and at AMS meetings.  Finally a proposal was made to NSF for a two week meeting to be held at the Kent State campus during summer of 1979; the proposal was funded and the conference was held.


More than 200 mathematicians attended with more than 50 hour-long talks and a myriad

of contributed talks as well; more than 35 countries were represented.  A special issue of the Israel Journal of Mathematics contained some of the papers. 


In a sense, the Conference of '79 settled the Informal Analysis Seminar's future.  In the years that followed, the seminar continued to met several times a semester (Kent switched from quarters to semesters in '78-'79) and we'd have periodic larger meetings.  In 1985, Kent hosted another International Conference on Banach spaces and Classical Analysis, again for two weeks; this time more than 300 mathematicians , representing more than 45 countries participated with 75 hour long talks and a myriad of contributed papers.  One consequence, beneficial to Kent State, was that a number of the participants stayed on at Kent for a semester or a whole academic year. 


Further special events celebrated in the framework of the Informal Seminar included special conferences organized around the awards of honorary degrees to Professors R. C. James (1987), Aleksander Pelczynski (1996) and Jorma Lindenstrauss (2002).


As the make-up of the analysis group at Kent State has changes, the nature of the Seminar has changed as well to reflect such changes.


       A short history of Informal Seminar.

                                            by Joe Diestel