This past Monday, revered mathematics professor Gilbert Strang capped a 61-year career as a faculty member at MIT by delivering his final lecture before retiring at the age of 88. Among those present were not only the students from his course 18.06 Linear Algebra—which saw record enrollment this semester, as he would be teaching the subject for the last time—but also numerous family members, friends, and colleagues. But the hundreds of in-person attendees weren’t the only ones who saw the lecture; Prof. Strang generously agreed to have the lecture livestreamed on YouTube so that those who couldn’t be present in person could experience this special lecture remotely. As it turned out, public interest was even higher than the organizers had expected—the total live audience, in person and remote, amounted to more than 6000 people, and the recording of the event racked up about 200,000 further views on YouTube in the first 48 hours after it was available.

Tributes from Near and Far

Before Prof. Strang began his lecture, some introductory words were offered via video by his colleague Alan Edelman; after the lecture, his former PhD student Pavel Grinfeld and MIT Mathematics department head Michel Goemans offered their own recollections, appreciations, and congratulations. Concurrently, the chat stream on YouTube displayed an outpouring of greetings and appreciative comments from viewers in at least 50 different countries around the world. And viewers’ comments on the recorded video have been similarly laudatory:

“Teaching math in a way that instills a love for the subject is a challenging task, much harder than solving complex equations. But your teaching style effortlessly achieves this.”

“Thank you professor, the world is a better place with you in it.”

“He taught my friend, his daughter, and her son. Three generations had the pleasure of being taught by this brilliant man.”

“The best teacher I never had. But thanks to MIT for sharing his linear algebra lectures. He has been a blessing for thousands of his students.”

“I can’t believe this legend is retiring. At least his former lectures will be available for future students.”

We at MIT OpenCourseWare are grateful to have been able to play a role in making Prof. Strang’s teaching available to future generations; he was one of the first faculty members to share their course materials with the world through OCW, and in the past twenty years, his courses on OCW have been viewed over twenty million times. We expect that level of interest to continue for years to come.

Courses by Prof. Strang on OCW:

Supplemental resources by Prof. Strang on OCW:

Video interviews:

Chalk Radio podcast interview: