What are the most famous examples of PhD advisors in mathematics, younger than their student?
(if possible put the date of birth and/or the difference in age).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does Whitfield Diffie count? He was more than a year older than his advisor Martin Hellman. (Un)fortunately he never finished his degree. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitfield_Diffie $\endgroup$
    – ThiKu
    Mar 19, 2015 at 8:49
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svetlana_Katok appears to be older than her advisor en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Zagier. I didn't go through all of Zagier's students, but there could be more examples among the early ones. $\endgroup$
    – user5117
    Mar 19, 2015 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't seem like a research level math question, and is therefore not on-topic for MO. I would vote to close but I can't. $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2015 at 12:01
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I think this phenomenon is fairly common. For example, I am younger than one of my PhD students, and my advisor is younger than at least one of his PhD students. It often happens that a person pursues the PhD later in life, after other accomplishments, and in such a case they can easily find themselves with a younger advisor. But I would rather that we should be discussing mathematician's theorems on MO, rather than their ages. $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2015 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ Let me add that in the cases with which I am familiar, the advisor/student relation was not fundamentally affected by the difference in age; it was just like normal. $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2015 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


The only example I know is Charlie Fefferman and his first student.

Advisor: Fefferman, born April 18, 1949. Year of PhD 1969.
Student: Antonio Córdoba Barba, born January 12, 1949. Year of PhD 1974.

Difference in age: 3 months and change.

Trivia: that is the only example I know also where both father and son studied under the same PhD advisor.


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