Dan Anderson

May 5, 2022 - 12:00am
Department of Mathematics

The Department of Mathematics is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear colleague, Professor Dan Anderson, after a long battle with cancer.

Early life

Born in a small town in Iowa on December 20th, 1948, Professor Anderson is a true Iowan. He grew up in Gowrie, Iowa, where he attended high-school and then went on to do his undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa. He graduated in 1971 with highest honors, including Phi Beta Kappa, Collegiate Scholar, and Woodrow Wilson Fellow. Subsequently, he went on to pursue a PhD program in mathematics at the University of Chicago.  Supported by a prestigious NSF Fellowship, he obtained his Ph.D. in 1974 under the supervision of the illustrious mathematician Irving Kaplansky. Then, he took one-year postdoctoral positions at the University of Iowa, Virginia Tech and University of Missouri.  In 1977, he accepted a tenure-track position in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Iowa. "There is nowhere else I'd rather be", and "I could not have imagined being anywhere else", he used to say about his choice of joining the faculty at the University of Iowa and becoming a Hawkeye. He quickly advanced through the ranks, and was an Assistant Professor between 1977-1979, an Associate Professor between 1979-1983, and a Full Professor since 1983.  He served as Chair (DEO) of the Department of Mathematics between 2011 and 2017.

Work and Impact

Dan Anderson's research area was in Commutative Algebra, and his work encompassed a wide research direction concerning factorization in commutative rings. He solved many of the problems of the field and was simultaneously an opener of many new research avenues. His work led to a stunning publication record.  He published well over two hundred papers in well-respected professional journals, has close to 3000 citations, and was influential in other adjacent fields such as group theory, associative algebras, or ordered structures. Professor Anderson supervised 36 PhD students over his impressive career.  He left a mark in the international mathematical community with over 80 collaborators across several continents, and an impact on many mathematical problems and mathematicians of future generations, who will continue to build upon a wealth of ideas and contributions in his research. Professor Anderson was elected as a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2018, a very prestigious recognition of his entire career.  He was instrumental in the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring awarded to the University of Iowa’s Department of Mathematics, as well as in obtaining several large grants from the Department of Education (with a funding level over $500,000 each) which supported many generations of students from underrepresented groups in STEM.

Professor Anderson was an active member of the Department, the University, the community, and the profession.  He served on the editorial board of several mathematical journals. During the past ten years, while struggling with serious illness, he continued to serve the department with all his energy, including being fully engaged with his duties as the chair.  Meanwhile, he remained active in research and continued to dedicate a lot of time and attention to his graduate students.  If he could, he would come to the department and his office, even if he had to overcome non-trivial logistical challenges.


Professor Anderson was a very energetic person, full of desire to engage people in various conversations, passionate about many subjects beyond mathematics, including history, and was a life-long collector of coins and tokens. He was a great presence to have at coffee time in the department’s lounge, or any other formal or informal meeting.

Professor Anderson passed away on April 24, 2022, shortly before 8 am at his home in Coralville. He was about to retire at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year. Our thoughts are with his entire family – his wife of over 50 years, Kathleen, daughter Caitlin Anderson Beam, twin brother David F. Anderson (a professor of mathematics at University of Tennessee), sister Jane Daly and two grandsons and one great-grandson. He will be missed by family, friends, colleagues and the mathematical community alike.