Michael Morley, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, dies at 90

Mon, 10/12/2020

Our friend and colleague Professor Emeritus Michael Morley passed yesterday evening at the Packer Hospital in Sayre, PA. Michael turned 90 on September 29th. He is survived by his niece Heide Lee of Houston.

Michael Darwin Morley earned his Bachelor’s degree from the Case Institute of Technology in 1951. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago in 1953 and 1962 respectively. His Ph.D. was under the initial direction of Saunders Mac Lane and completed with Robert Vaught at Berkeley.

From 1955-61 he worked as a mathematician for the Lab of Applied Sciences at the University of Chicago.  He was an Instructor at the University of California at Berkeley from 1962-63 and Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin from 1963-67. He joined Cornell as an Associate Professor in 1967 and was promoted to Professor in 1970. Michael served as Associate Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies from 1984-1990 and 1991-95. He was also President of the Association of Symbolic Logic from 1986-89. He became Professor Emeritus on January 1, 2003.

In 2003 Michael won the Leroy P. Steele Prize of the American Mathematical Society for Seminal Contribution to Research for his 1965 paper "Categoricity in Power". The award citation notes the paper “…set in motion an extensive development of pure model theory by proving the first deep theorem in this subject and introducing in the process completely new tools to analyze theories and their models”. Here is the full citation for his Steele Prize.  He introduced the notion now known as Morley rank. Over 400 papers use this term.

Michael’s devotion to students is very well-known at Cornell and in the larger community – the Morley Prize, awarded to an outstanding mathematics senior at Ithaca High School, is named in his honor. He was also a patient and empathetic advisor to undergraduates and received the 1995-96 Robert A. and Donna B. Paul Advising award from the College of Arts & Sciences. The award is “to honor undergraduate advisers who make a difference in the lives of their Cornell students.” Some staff members referred to him as “Uncle Mike” because of his kind and genial manner. One commented on the “many stressed and emotional undergrads who sought counsel and left his office calm and smiling.”

His motto was “At Cornell, we like students”.

Michael Morley