I have a reference to "Theory and Examples of Point Set Topology" by J. Greever (1967: Brooks/Cole).

I searched for biographical information on J. Greever and I identified:

  • John Greever, b. 30-Jan-1934

  • John Jay Greever Jr, 1912-1989.

I believe the two are conflated in what can be found online. The general consensus is that John Greever is the son of John Jay Greever Jr., and it was John Greever who wrote "Theory and Examples of Point Set Topology", as the latter was a mathematics professor at Virginia.

But it is possible to find links that suggest "John Jay Greever" wrote TaEoPST. So while I suspect that this is propagation of a mistake, there are a few compelling reasons to suggest that "John Greever" may also be a "John Jay Greever", as he can be found under that name in Mathematics Genealogy Project. Prabook gives him as "John Greever" and identifies him as the son of "John Jay Greever" (whence the confusion in the first place), but if "John Greever" really is "John Jay Greever", then my understanding is that he would properly be styled "John Jay Greever III" or some such.

Does anyone have any inside information as to exactly how the Greever who wrote this book is actually named?

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    $\begingroup$ I learned topology from that book in 1966 when it was still in mimeograph form and took two more topology courses from it’s author; so far as I know, he has always used simply John Greever, at least in publications. Harvey Mudd College still lists him as a living Professor Emeritus. (Collating information from unreliable public sources leads me to think that he probably now lives in Seattle.) $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2021 at 1:44

1 Answer 1


Did you try the Mathematics Genealogy Project website? I use this so often that it's one of the 7 links I have on my top google toolbar. Sometimes their information is not exactly correct (and I inform them when I find an error), so I double check with a ProQuest search (another one of my 7 google toolbar links), using last name and a dissertation title word (as needed), which resulted in John Jay Greever, III.

Finally, to make sure the ProQuest data is correct (FYI, in looking up hundreds of names in 15+ years, I don't believe I've ever encountered a name spelling or dissertation title wording/spelling that I found to be incorrect), I'll do a search for the dissertation title and last name in google-books to make sure that the various publications that publish the dissertation title agree. Sometimes you can find the dissertation online by using a regular google search. If you can find an actual copy of the dissertation, then you can check the name in the title page. Much more significant is that you can sometimes find an author biography/vitae at the end, especially in older dissertations. And if there is no biography/vitae, then the Acknowledgments section (or similar such page) at the beginning will often have useful information, such as sibling/parent names that you can then use for additional google searches. In the case of Greever, I wasn't able to find a copy of his dissertation that is freely available.

Additionally, you can search the university library where Greever got his Ph.D. Sometimes more author information can be found there, such as a birth year. Also, on rare occasions you might find that the dissertation is available in .pdf form there even through a google search didn't turn up this possibility. In the case of Greever, however, I didn't find anything more at the library info. page for his dissertation.

Given that his Ph.D. was awarded in 1958, the 1934 birth date is almost certainly correct. To confirm it, try searching in google-books for things like "Greever, John" + math and look for "American Men & Women of Science" (or in the West, MidWest, etc.) and/or various "Who's Who" book entries, where the google-snippet views will often give you a birth date. Note that I specifically did NOT put 'math' in quotes. This is because you want various cognates of 'math' to be included in the search, not just the exact 4-character word 'math'.

In the case of Greever, the google-books search "Greever, John" + math + "American Men" confirms several times that 1934 is correct. There's also a "Who's Who in the West" book entry you can find using "Greever, John" + math + "Who's Who". The birth year is missing in the snippet view I see (but it's a very close miss), so in these cases (i.e. when you have a close miss) try clicking on the entry itself and see what shows up (takes you here) (sometimes you'll get the birth date just by doing this), then delete the words "math" and "Who's Who" in an attempt to get a snippet view that shows the birth date. However, it doesn't work in this case. Another trick is to go back to the google-books snippet part and copy a phrase at the end before the snippet part ends. I tried "GREEVER , JOHN , mathematics educator ; b", but it didn't give me anything more this time. However, sometimes doing this last step will give you words in a new snippet view that appear after the words you were previously able to see. Although the birth year is definitely 1934 based on the "American Men ..." entries, I've included the details about various follow-ups to the "Who's Who in the West" search to show what you can attempt if you get a snippet view that seems to just miss showing you a birth date.

As for whether he's still alive, you can try searches such as {"John J. Geever" + city-he-seems-to-live-in} and maybe include "mylife" (a web source that is one of the best for giving such information). Also try searches for various versions of his name, city lived in, and birth year, along with words such as "obituary" or "died". As for cities a mathematician has lived in, do a google-books search for {"last name, first name" + math + "Combined Membership"}. This will give you some of the various AMS/MAA/SIAM Combined Membership entries for him in snippet views (these used to be books mailed out, or maybe purchased cheaply, I forgot -- I have several from the mid 1970s to early/mid 1990s), along with where the person lived for particular years. Of course, some of where the person has lived will also be in the "American Men ..." and "Who's Who ..." entries, but even when you can't find any such "American Men ..." entries for a mathematician, you can still often find some information about where they've lived and taught in a "Combined Membership" search.

By the way, matching the Greever above with the author of the topology book is easy, since the author of the topology book taught at Harvey Mudd College, and the 1934 Greever is easily identified with the Harvey Mudd College Greever.

  • $\begingroup$ Well yes that's the thing, on MGP he's in as "John Jay Greever" which is what set me back on my heels a bit. Trouble is, however many citations I get for him as John Greever, there's no way to guess from that whether or not he's actually "John Jay Greever" or not. $\endgroup$ Jan 27, 2021 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ I definitely understand about citations, which is why I emphasized focusing on printed bibliographic sources (i.e. using google-books) and not just what some random web page says. The MGP is a good first source, but I never assume it's accurate --- I've encountered way, way too many minor author and dissertation title errors (not to mention things like semi-colon, colon, en dash, etc. usage in titles, if you're looking for that level of accuracy, which I often am). For me it's mostly just a first step that allows me to get enough potentially correct information to use in additional searches. $\endgroup$ Jan 27, 2021 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ Okay then, I'll be going with "John Greever", with a note to the effect that "some sources render his name as "John Jay Greever", a possible conflation with his father John Jay Greever Jr.". Reckon that would be acceptable as a supposedly authoritative internet source? $\endgroup$ Jan 27, 2021 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ ... and it just occurred to me that I used to work for ProQuest! Going back a few years now, but this is indeed a thing. $\endgroup$ Jan 27, 2021 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, on reflection that is how I rendered his name in the end. SMH at the lack of imagination exhibited by certain families with regard to the naming of their offspring, with no regard for the historians of later ages trying to make sense of it all. :-) $\endgroup$ Jan 28, 2021 at 10:41

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