Last Saturday, July 31, was the 85th birthday of famed mathematician and Oak Park resident Arthur Oliver Lonsdale Atkin (also known as A.O.L. Atkin – no relation to the online service provider). Born in Liverpool, England in 1925, Atkin was a brilliant mathematician and used those skills during World War II to help U.S. allies break the German “Enigma” code.

His academic career led him to the United States in 1970 to teach at the University of Arizona. His was joined by wife Raynor and children William and Henrietta. Atkin later accepted a teaching position at the University of Illinois at Chicago and moved his family to Oak Park. Oliver died in December 2008 after contracting pneumonia during a hospital stay following a fall at his home. He was known for his quirky sense of humor and his love of animals.

According to Atkin’s eulogy, given by his daughter-in-law’s father: “I first met Oliver, in 1981 at an event at Oak Park High School. I had become aware that his son, William, was dating my daughter, Laura, and decided it was time that Oliver and I should meet. I walked up to Oliver in a milling crowd after a school event and introduced myself with the phrase, ‘Hi, I’m Laura’s father.’ All I got was a puzzled look, as if to say, ‘Who is Laura and who are you?’ How could he possibly keep up with all of William’s friends? The larger social world always seemed a bit puzzling to Oliver, and he handled it in his own way.”

Atkin’s mood apparently soothed. At his son’s wedding, he was the organist and “played his heart out.”

This article has been updated to correct that last Saturday, July 31, would have been Arthur Oliver Lonsdale Atkin’s 85th birthday.

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