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PMA, obituary
11/19/2009 08:00:00

F. Brock Fuller, 82

F. Brock Fuller, emeritus professor of mathematics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), died on November 6 at the Rafael Convalescent Hospital in San Rafael, California, four years after being diagnosed with diffuse Lewy body disease. He was 82.

Fuller received his bachelor's, master's, and PhD degrees from Princeton. He came to Caltech in 1952 as a research fellow. He became assistant professor of mathematics in 1955, associate professor in 1959, and professor in 1966. In 1994, he became professor emeritus.

Much of Fuller's work revolved around what are called "writhing numbers," and the way in which these mathematical descriptions of twisting and coiling could describe supercoiled double-stranded DNA helices. (A supercoiled DNA helix is one in which the already-twisted DNA strands twist again, either in the same direction as the original helix, or in the opposite direction.)

In the early 1980s, Fuller-who was also an audiophile-was involved in analyzing digital recording technologies as they began to reach prominence in the audio-entertainment industry. Working alongside Caltech colleagues such as Gary Lorden and James Boyk, Fuller examined music piped in to Thomas Laboratory from Dabney Lounge, comparing various signals.

Fuller moved to San Rafael, in northern California, in 1996. He is survived by his wife, Alison Clark Fuller of San Rafael; his daughter, Lynn D. Fuller of San Francisco, as well as her husband, William Bivins, and their four children, Samuel, Zachary, Elizabeth, and Claire Bivins; and his sister, Cornelia Fuller of Pasadena.

Written by Jon Weiner