Online book of condolences for Dr Claudia Wulff

This page has been created for Claudia’s colleagues, students, collaborators, friends and family to leave messages of condolence, to remember Claudia and to share stories and fond memories of her.

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We are planning to organise a conference in Claudia's memory once in-person conferences are feasible again. If you would like to be kept informed about this, please email maths-DA@surrey.ac.uk to express your interest.

Messages of condolence

Claudia has been sorely missed during her illness. Knowing that she will not be returning to us is a sad realisation. She was an excellent mathematician with enough passion and energy for the whole department put together. I also learnt over the years how much she cared about the students and their progression. She was always very welcoming and she was someone that I was always pleased to see arriving at a gathering, I always knew then that there would be some action!

Carina Dunlop

The death of our dear colleague Claudia Wulff after an illness of two years leaves the Department bereft not only of a fine mathematician, but also one of those unusual and memorable characters of a type not often encountered in mathematics. I would like to share one or two more-or-less random memories of her that have come to mind over the last few weeks.

Claudia worked from home when possible - by any standards, she kept extraordinary hours - but when she was in the Department, it was impossible not to be aware of the fact: a door slamming somewhere down the corridor; her distinctive voice, heard from afar; rapid steps approaching and receding as she hurried, usually late, to give a lecture. There was a tension about the place when she was in, a tension that immediately dissipated when she wasn't there.

Claudia was also an accomplished dancer and skater, even doing one or two qualifications in skating. I well remember her demonstrating some of the more difficult skating moves in my office, not easy to do on a rough carpet while wearing shoes, not skates. A swivel chair was put to use and a filing cabinet played the role of Dean to her Torvill.

Unusually for a mathematician, she didn't like coffee, preferring herbal tea. In place of caffeine, she got her stimulants through eating the smallest, hottest chillies you can buy, raw, neat and in quantity. This was her standard fare in the after-seminar wine and nibbles, at which she was, as always, the life and soul of the party.

The Department is a poorer place now this livewire, this whirlwind of a woman is no longer with us. We shall miss your cheerful presence and unforgettable personality, Claudia. RIP.

Jonathan Deane

Claudia truly was someone extraordinary, a generous and candid person and a great mathematician who has touched all of us deeply like few others did. An extraordinary colleague and friend, who spoke of her ordeal with the precision and courage of a person who has dedicated their entire life to the advancement of research and knowledge. I always will have for her the greatest possible admiration and the most beautiful memories.

Ale

A tragically early death after a long and debilitating illness most bravely borne. I will miss Claudia's enthusiasm, razor sharp mind and above all her sense of humour. She will be greatly missed.

John Rayman

I have fond memories of Claudia and she contributed a lot to the Department over many years. I was very sorry to hear the sad news of her passing.

Philip

Claudia was always so full of energy and dedication, which could especially be seen in her teaching, with her rapid pacing up and down the lecture theatre and vibrant explaining of theorems to students. If you were finding a new process at work a challenge or had a difficult teaching situation, then you knew you would find a friendly ear on Claudia. I will miss this, but I think I'll miss Claudia's infectious laughter most of all.

Matt T

Claudia was a wonderful and unique mathematician. She brought so much life and energy to the department. We missed her during her illness and we enjoyed it when she came back for a day last year. It makes me very sad to realise that there will be no more of those days, but I do cherish the many happy memories.

Gianne

I have many happy memories of the Surrey Mathematics Department, with its amazingly friendly atmosphere, and plenty of unusual and interesting characters, amongst whom clearly Claudia was the standout personality. The wine and chillies after the colloquium were a weekly highlight made by her presence (even if the chillies had to be chopped by others to avoid the capsaicin getting into Claudia's eyes).

In addition to her amazing personality, Claudia was a truly outstanding mathematician who tackled deep and difficult questions. One paper by Claudia, Jeroen Lamb and myself from 2001, with Claudia as lead author, is almost impenetrable despite extensive efforts by all three authors to make it as comprehensible as possible; in the end it is just a really difficult topic. Equivariant bifurcation theory from relative periodic solutions sounds like a natural enough question to study, but it never got much past this paper which owed everything to Claudia's extraordinary insights. Best of luck to anyone brave enough to attempt further progress on this!

Subsequently, Claudia went on to study dynamics near relative equilibria and relative periodic solutions in Hamiltonian systems, her work combining deep aspects from symplectic geometry, Lie groups, representation theory, and equivariant dynamics. Developing such a beautiful, powerful and definitive theory in such a short time and in such a competitive area was a real tour de force on Claudia's part.

After my departure from Surrey, Claudia and I remained in occasional contact though sadly the last time we met in person was Spring 2017. Later attempts to meet up were thwarted by travel plans, illness and the pandemic.

Time for one anecdote: while at Surrey, I had to give a talk to about 700 people and my laptop stopped working a day or two before my flight. Claudia emailed me to say that she had spent a few hours blocking off personal stuff on her laptop so that I could borrow it. If the blocking had failed halfway through the talk, then it might have taken a hell of a lot of explaining! Fortunately, Claudia also sent a very persuasive email explaining why my request (initially declined) to borrow a departmental laptop should be granted.

Just one illustration out of many of the fact that Claudia was a lot of fun, a wonderful colleague, and a great friend. So many fond memories. Her early death is heartbreaking and she is very dearly missed.

Ian Melbourne

I got to know Claudia while we were both applying for jobs in Germany in the early 2000s. Although we were competing professionally, it was never personal, and we started to stay a few extra days in the various university cities after the interviews to explore them together! Later we organised a session at a big conference in Sydney together and had great fun exploring a bit of Australia afterwards, including celebrating her birthday at Ayer's Rock!

The last time I met her was at the Annual Meeting of the German Mathematical Society in 2012, where she promised to dance with me at the conference dinner - it sadly never happened because I was the main organiser and was always distracted that evening. I was awfully sad to hear that she wasn't well, and couldn't even visit her in Germany this last year because of the pandemic. I'm just glad to have such nice memories.

Mark Groves

I am sad to learn of Claudia passing away. I did not know she was sick. I met Claudia at a meeting in Minneapolis in 1998 just before she came to Houston for a postdoc while I was finishing my Ph.D. I did get to know her quite well at the time when I helped her settle in Houston. Over the years, our paths crossed many times: in Ottawa, in Warwick, at Imperial College, in Peyresq for a summer school and more! My sincere condolences to all family, friends and her colleagues who had regular interactions with her as I did all those years ago.

Luciano Buono

I will remember and sadly miss Claudia's passion and energy for mathematics. She was a fantastic colleague who would go significantly out of her way to help you but she was also a very funny person to be around. I will always remember Claudia, you'll be sadly missed.

David Lloyd

I was fortunate to work with Claudia on a project, and very much enjoyed interacting with her. She was a very nice person and a talented mathematician. She will be missed.

Yuri Latushkin

I was very sad to hear this news. Claudia was such a wonderful person. I fondly remember our mathematical and personal interactions.

Dwight

Claudia had an extraordinary personality, always with the most vivid stories about everything, most frequently her own life, few details spared, and with a fantastic sense of humour also if she was sometimes at the receiving end. We joked that the "Wulff'' is the unit of intensity of life, on which logarithmic scale she herself had 1.

It was the first thing that would strike you meeting Claudia, and for this reason I spoke German with her (thinking she might be calmer in her own language, but that, obviously, was my mistake). Claudia and I came to the department around the same time, both as our first permanent job, so we could be angry, commiserate or make fun of the same things together, as often happened on long Fridays in the common room after the seminar.

Claudia kept a childlike delight in cheerful things; her house full of ladybirds of any size, her office full of bath-tub ducks - a devotion she shared with former secretary Gwen. Claudia also kept an innocence that made her say and do things that most people wouldn't dream of doing. Who else than Claudia could goose-step through the common room just to experience the bizarreness of the motion, but quite oblivious of the connotations?
Who else could ask during a job interview how far the beach was?

Eventually I left Surrey, and the last time I met her was when she visited Vienna for a conference, and we spend the evening having dinner, watching some concert in front of the Rathaus and mostly talking. It was just after her very good friend Phil had died, and it saddens me that Claudia had to see so many awful deaths among her loved ones. Her own illness she fought very bravely, reaching for every bit of life. I will remember her generosity, warm honesty, and quirky ways in which she sometimes reached beyond 1 on the Wulff scale.

Henk Bruin

Claudia brought so much energy to everything that she did. She was unlike anyone else I have ever met – a complete whirlwind of a person. Claudia would say everything she thought of – even if it was completely inappropriate, but had no bad temper or malice. She is sorely missed as a colleague and friend.

Janet

Very sad to hear of the passing (must be such a young age?) and after an illness during a pandemic. She was a lovely lecturer and I think I felt a special fondness due to my own German relatives. Hope she is in a happy place - sadly I never got to experience her dancing or party frolics, but can imagine she had a good time.

Alex

This is such sad news. I remember meeting Claudia in January 2001, when we were both visiting Warwick. We'd periodically see each other at Dynamical Systems events. I remember hearing how happy she was to be living in London, and I always imagined we'd run into each other again.

Adam Epstein

Claudia's affability, her passion, and her big heart are quite rare to find. The world was richer with her, and she will be truly missed.

Henning

We have had the pleasure to know Claudia over many years through conferences, visits and research collaboration, and have particularly enjoyed working with her since 2013 on a problem applying equivariant bifurcation theory to liquid crystal dynamics. Sadly, Claudia passed away between the first provisional acceptance of our paper – which she was very pleased to note - and its eventual publication. Throughout our work her cheerfulness, enthusiasm, deep analytic insight and scrupulous attention to detail have continually inspired us and sustained the project. We miss her energy and discipline and are grateful to have had the good fortune to share such a collaboration with her.

David Chillingworth, Reiner Lauterbach, Greg Forest