Yo Sally! Remembering the late University of Chicago math professor Paul Sally

‘I loved to tell people about mathematics until I was blue in the face, and they were so tired they couldn't stand it anymore.’

February 21, 2014

(Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)
Professor Paul Sally and Kim Ransom

A University of Chicago math legend affectionately called “Professor Pirate” died recently at age 80. Professor Paul Sally was known as much for his teaching as his research.

Sally learned he had diabetes at age 15. The disease eventually took both legs and most of his eyesight, requiring him to wear a signature black eye patch.

Shortly before he died on Dec. 30, 2013, Sally visited the Chicago StoryCorps booth with colleague, Kim Ransom, who heads the University of Chicago Collegiate Scholars Program.

SALLY: It turned out that one of the easiest subjects for me to deal with in school was mathematics. I never had to study and I loved learning it … I loved to tell people  about mathematics until I was blue in the face, and they were so tired they couldn't stand it anymore.

StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. This excerpt was edited by WBEZ.

To hear more, and to find out what sport helped fuel Sally’s love of math, check out the audio above.

Lynette Kalsnes is a reporter/producer covering religion, science and culture for WBEZ. Follow her @LynetteKalsnes