\ivchapter[]{George Gr\"{a}tzer}
\ivblurb{George Gr\"{a}tzer is a mathematician who has
written books on \TeX{} and \LaTeX{} and edits a journal prepared in \LaTeX{}.}{completed 13 April 2005
}{gratzer.jpg}
\question{\nameonefont{Dave Walden, interviewer}}{Please tell me a bit about your personal history
independent of \TeX{}.}
\answer{\nameonefont{George Gr\"{a}tzer, interviewee}} I am a mathematician, born and educated in Hungary. I came to
North America in 1963 (first to the \acro{USA}, then in 1966 to Canada). If
you are interested in my mathematical papers, they are all posted on my
web site (\url{http://www.umanitoba.ca/science/gratzer}).
\par You will find there a listing of my books in three categories:
mathematical, \LaTeX{}, and others. Just last week, I submitted to my
publisher my latest mathematical book: \ivtitle{Congruence Lattices of
Finite Lattices}. It should appear late fall. Do not ask me what it is
about.
\par I also founded an international mathematical journal,
\ivtitle{Algebra Universalis}, which can be accessed via my website.
\par
I am a member of various academies of sciences, have lots of degrees,
one honorary.
\par I have a wife, two children, and three grandchildren.
\question{\acro{DW}}{When and how did you first get
involved with \TeX{} and its friends?}
\answer{\acro{GG}} In 1986, a short paper of mine, written in Word, was accepted in
the Proc.\ Amer.\ Math.\ Soc.\sentencespace
The letter of acceptance
stated that the paper will be published in 48 weeks, however, if I
submit it in \AmS\TeX{}, then they publish it in 20 weeks. I did not know
what \AmS\TeX{} was, but a colleague of mine had a \TeX{} with \AmS\TeX{}, and
offered to loan it to me. Over the weekend, I rewrote the short paper in
\AmS\TeX{} and submitted it. The paper was short and had simple formulas,
so the transition was easy. (Unfortunately, the \acro{AMS} twice misplaced the
paper, and it was published much later\Dash in 1988.) From 1986 to
1990, I wrote all my papers in \AmS\TeX{}. Sometime, this was very
frustrating. For instance, my paper \#146 was a survey paper
containing 30 theorems and 29 problems scattered into dozens of
subsections. The constant reorganization of the paper was very
complicated: \AmS\TeX{} could not number! Of course, I could have switched
to \LaTeX{}, but I found \LaTeX{}'s ability to typeset math very limited
compared to \AmS\TeX{}.
\question{\acro{DW}}{Many people use \TeX{}. Not so many write books and papers
\emph{on} it. How did you come to write these books for the \TeX{}
community?}
\answer{\acro{GG}} In 1990, at the Kyoto meeting of the International Mathematical
Union, the \acro{AMS} released \AmS-\LaTeX{}. It was an answer to my dearest
hopes: it married the mathematical abilities of \AmS\TeX{} with the
housekeeping abilities of \LaTeX{}. There was only one problem: who could
understand it?
\par
The documentation instructed us to read a book on \LaTeX{}, one on
\AmS\TeX{}, and then the 100 pages or so of explanations that followed
pointed out how \AmS-\LaTeX{} compares to \LaTeX{} and \AmS\TeX{}. I said to
myself: there must be a better way. So I started to struggle with
\AmS-\LaTeX{} and kept notes on what worked and what did not. Eventually, I
decided to turn my notes into a book, so people will not have to go
through the same struggle as I did.
\par
I also had a dream: my journal will receive all the contributions in
\AmS-\LaTeX{} and we will not have the huge expense of having to typeset
it. Today, 15 years later, this dream has come true.
\par
I am not a \LaTeX{} expert, I do not understand the \TeX{} language, I am
just a user. I tried to turn this to my advantage. Since I have a
difficult time (discovering and) understanding so many rules, I do
two things differently. First, I write an introductory part to my
book for beginners, so they do not have to go to page 240 to
understand what every beginner has to know. Then in the reference
part of the book I repeat what is in the introductory part, so the
reader will not have to guess where to go for what information.
Everything is in one place. Second, I explain all the rules with
examples, lots of them; after all, most of my readers are
mathematicians; they easily recognize a pattern when they see the
examples. Formal rules come last.
\par
It was very rewarding that some 50,000 people chose to learn \LaTeX{}
with the \acro{AMS} packages from my books and that the Mathematics Editor
of Amazon.com selected my \ivtitle{Math into \LaTeX{}} as one of the ten best
books of the year 2000.
\question{\acro{DW}}{You mentioned your dream being achieved of not having to
typeset your \textsl{AU} journal. That leads me to ask about how
well you are satisfied with \LaTeX{} and your class for the needs of your
journal, or if and how you think \TeX{} and \LaTeX{} have to evolve to
continue to be useful to mathematicians.}
\answer{\acro{GG}} \LaTeX{} and the au class (which is a slightly modified amsart) does
the job for the journal.
\par
The major problem with \TeX{} and \LaTeX{} is that it is so badly coded. It
seems to me that \TeX{} is calling subroutines without storing the info
where it is calling from; as a result, when something blows up in the
subroutine, \TeX{} does not know what went wrong, so the error messages
are misleading or plain inappropriate. If you do everything right,
\TeX{} does a perfect job 99% of the time. If all users were perfect, this
would be a nice work environment. But we are not. So we have to develop
very defensive work habits.
\par Recoding \TeX{} would be nice, but I do not see it happening. \LaTeX{}
probably will develop but not the way it would be useful for us users,
but probably to better serve the needs of large
organizations\Dash the \acro{AMS}, the publishers.
\par
Now that a click or two produces pdf files from \TeX{}, we can communicate
with everybody\Dash and electronically; this is very useful. My journal
does not pay anything for postage any more, and communication is very
fast.
\par
The next big thing in mathematical publishing will be color. In a few
years, color printing will be cheap. This will be a very big problem
for the mathematical community. Centuries of typesetting tradition
tells us how to typeset mathematics in black and white. What happens
when color comes in? Shall we do theorems in blue, problems in red? Who
will develop the new standards?
\question{\acro{DW}}{You have contributed to the \TeX{} community through your books that
help people learn to use it. Are there parts of the world wide \TeX{}
community and infrastructure that you also draw on? Is there any sort
of formal or informal community of users for specifically mathematical
\TeX{} and \LaTeX{} users?}
\answer{\acro{GG}} I got very generous help from the mathematical \TeX{} community in
the form of dozens of volunteers to read and criticize my manuscripts.
Members of the \LaTeX\thinspace3 team and mathematicians from all over the world
gave their time generously. Also, \texttt{comp.text.tex} is very useful;
lots of experts give good advice.
\question{\acro{DW}}{I greatly appreciate your
giving your time to participate in this interview, and I am ordering a copy
of your \ivtitle{Math into \LaTeX{}} today.}