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Harvard Wins Math Meet Again

Streak in Putnam Comptetition Said to Show Strength of Dept.

By Brett R. Huff

Further bolstering the prestige of the Math Department, a team of three Harvard undergraduates has won the Putnam Mathematical Competition for the fifth consecutive year, according to a letter from the tournament's trustee.

Although official results are usually not released until later in the spring, George Putnam '73, in a letter released to The Crimson, congratulated the University and the Math Department for the Harvard team's performance in this year's contest.

Math students and professors yesterday said Harvard's unprecedented streak of success in the competition is indicative of the mounting profile and popularity of the Math Department.

Department members say that Harvard's recent triumphs in the Putnam competition are largely due to the influx of highly talented students to the department. And in turn, each additional win functions as an "advertisement," attracting more students, Math affiliates said.

"We have such a chunk of the mathematics talent in the country that we are becoming invincible," said Andrew M. Gleason, Hollis Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy.

"The reason that Harvard has done so well is that the word is out that Harvard is the place to be as a mathematics undergraduate," said Clay Professor of Mathematics and Theoretical Science Arthur M. Jaffe, who is the chair of the department.

The word has apparently spread beyond the United States. Last summer, Jaffe recieved letters from two Soviet and two Chinese students expressing interest in attending Harvard and concentrating in math, he said.

Although Harvard has dominated the Putnam competition in both the team and individual categories for the past five years, none of the three members of this year's winning team alone placed among the top five. While the three-person contingent represents the University in the contest, 50 to 70 Harvard students have taken the Putnam test individually for each of the last five years, according to Professor of Mathematics Clifford H. Taubes, who administers the test at Harvard.

"We thought none of us did all that well individually, but we thought we might have done well enough [as a team] to win," said team member Raymond M. Sidney '91. The other Harvard representatives were Jeremy A. Kahn '90 and Eric Wepsic '92.

Each of the Harvard team members will be awarded about $250, and the Math Department will recieve about $5000, according to Gleason.

Harvard students who place among the top percentages of the competition traditionally proceed to coach high school students in other mathematics competitions, Taubes said. Personal contact with Harvard math concentrators has served to perpetuate the strength of the Math Department by giving the students incentive to bring their talent to Harvard, he said.

"My guess is that we had a group of really sharp guys come--they were some of the best undergraduates in the country," Taubes said. "They recruited some of their younger friends that did well this year. We lucked out about five years ago with a group of outstanding freshmen."

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