Marston Morse

H. C. Marston Morse
Morse in 1965 (courtesy MFO)
Born (1892-03-24)March 24, 1892
Waterville, Maine, U.S.
Died June 22, 1977(1977-06-22) (aged 85)
Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Colby College
Harvard University
Known for Morse theory
Awards Bôcher Memorial Prize (1933)
National Medal of Science (1964)
Scientific career
Fields Mathematics
Institutions Harvard University
Institute for Advanced Study
Doctoral advisor George David Birkhoff
Doctoral students Emilio Baiada
Gustav Hedlund
Sumner Myers
Arthur Sard

Harold Calvin Marston Morse (March 24, 1892 – June 22, 1977) was an American mathematician best known for his work on the calculus of variations in the large, a subject where he introduced the technique of differential topology now known as Morse theory. The Morse–Palais lemma, one of the key results in Morse theory, is named after him, as is the Thue–Morse sequence, an infinite binary sequence with many applications. In 1933 he was awarded the Bôcher Memorial Prize for his work in mathematical analysis.


He was born in Waterville, Maine to Ella Phoebe Marston and Howard Calvin Morse in 1892. He received his bachelor's degree from Colby College (also in Waterville) in 1914. At Harvard University, he received both his master's degree in 1915 and his Ph.D. in 1917.

He taught at Harvard, Brown, and Cornell Universities before accepting a position in 1935 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he remained until his retirement in 1962.

He spent most of his career on a single subject, titled Morse Theory, a branch of differential topology. Morse Theory is a very important subject in modern mathematical physics, such as string theory.

Marston Morse should not be confused with Anthony Morse, famous for the Morse–Sard theorem.

Selected publications



  • Calculus of variations in the large, American Mathematical Society, 1934 [1]
  • Topological methods in the theory of functions of a complex variable, Princeton University Press, 1947 [2]
  • Lectures on analysis in the large, 1947 
  • Symbolic dynamics, Mimeographed notes by R. Oldenberger. Princeton, NJ: Institute for Advanced Study. 1966. 
  • with Stewart Cairns: Critical point theory in global analysis and differential topology, Academic Press, 1969 
  • Variational analysis: critical extremals and Sturmian extensions, Wiley, 1973; 2nd edn. Dover, 2007 
  • Global variational analysis: Weierstrass integrals on a Riemannian manifold, Princeton University Press, 1976 [3]
  • Morse, Marston (1981), Bott, Raoul, ed., Selected papers, Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-0-387-90532-7, MR 0635124 
  • Morse, Marston (1987), Montgomery, Deane; Bott, Raoul, eds., Collected papers. Vol. 1--6, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co., ISBN 978-9971-978-94-5, MR 0889255 



Biographical references


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