Published November 23, 2020

Keeping Count

Chair holder in mathematics is a leader in probability and numbers theory research.

József Beck is a professor of mathematics at the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. He is a leader in the fields of number theory, probabilistic methods, combinatorial games, and combinatorial geometry.

photo of jeszef beckBeck earned his doctorate at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious institution of higher learning in Hungary. Beck credits his book, Irregularities of Distribution, written with W.W. Chen and published by Cambridge University Press in 1987, as one of the reasons he was offered the Martin professorship.

His other books include Inevitable Randomness in Discrete Mathematics; Probabilistic Diophantine Approximation: Randomness in Lattice Point Counting; and Strong Uniformity and Large Dynamical Systems. He is working on a new book, Large Systems: Proving a Second Law, and another book on non-integrable dynamical systems.

In addition to conducting research, Beck teaches undergraduate courses, including “Mathematical Reasonings,” “Probability II,” and “Stochastic Processes,” as well as advanced topics for graduate students.

The Harold H. Martin Professor of Mathematics chair was established by Harold H. Martin to be occupied by an internationally renowned scholar in mathematics.

In the Professor’s Own Words 

What brought you to Rutgers?

To be frank, the main reason was to save money, and then to go back to Hungary and do things

like buying a car or moving to a bigger apartment, etc. But eventually we liked it here so much

that we decided to stay.

How would you characterize the students who work with you?

The overwhelming majority of the students really want to learn and appreciate a “tough” guy like me.

Do you enjoy teaching undergraduates?

I prefer to teach reasonably good undergraduate students (compared to graduate students). They are more grateful.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your work?

I went on sabbatical leave for one semester in 2003, and since then I never missed a semester. I would miss the contact with students. But my true love is research. I am very, very happy that I can still do good research at the age of 68 and can compete with the brightest Ph.D. students and fellow mathematicians.


This story is part of Rutgers University Foundation’s Endowed Chairs Impact series. Supporting professorships and research helps spark innovation and creativity here in New Jersey and beyond.