Francis William Lawvere, (born Muncie, Indiana, February 9, 1937), died at sunrise on January 23, 2023, aged 85, after a long illness at his daughter's home in Chapel Hill, NC.

Bill graduated from Muncie Central High School in 1955 after attending Jefferson Township High School, Upland. He became a mathematician and received his undergraduate degree from Indiana University, Bloomington and his Doctorate from Columbia University, New York City. He did his post-doctoral studies at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland.

Bill was devoted to scientific research, education and the democratic renewal of society. He continues to be greatly appreciated for his research insights and his many collaborations in discovering and elaborating a wide array of new concepts in mathematics and several related fields. As one of the leaders in the field of Category Theory, Bill worked to unify and simplify both advanced and elementary mathematics, so that mathematics and philosophy can continue to serve as guides for science and education. 

Bill was an internationalist who considered research and teaching as part of the work needed for enlightenment and building the movement for a new society. He courageously opposed war, supported liberation and resistance struggles of people around the world and at home, and participated in or encouraged progressive political activities his entire life. He stood for free speech and vigorous discussion to involve everyone in addressing problems based on theory and a commitment to progress.

Bill generously gave help and encouragement to countless undergraduate and graduate students, as well as researchers in many countries. In addition to his many classes, Bill wrote several books and many articles representing his research and vigorous collaborations with many colleagues. His wife Fatima was a constant collaborator in his remarkably fruitful career in mathematical education, publishing and lecturing. Additional information and useful links regarding his scientific life can be found here. Among many recognitions, in 2010, he was proud to have received the "Premio Giulio Preti" prize, awarded by the Regional Council of Tuscany and to have been elected as an American Mathematical Society Fellow in 2012.

Many of Bill's discoveries in advanced mathematics developed as ways to improve teaching. Bill taught at State University of New York at Buffalo for 26 years. He retired as professor emeritus in Mathematics and in Philosophy at SUNY Buffalo in 2000. He also held positions at various Universities starting in Portland, Oregon; New York City; Halifax, Canada; Chicago, Illinois; Zurich, Switzerland; Aarhus, Denmark; Perugia, Italy; Paris, France; and Sydney, Australia. In addition, Bill lectured and collaborated with scientists in dozens of countries. His contributions continue to widely impact several areas of science.

Bill frequently visited and spoke highly of his childhood farm outside Matthews, Indiana, the surrounding farms and towns, and especially of his many relations, friends, classmates and influential teachers who had encouraged him throughout his early education.

Preceding him in death were his parents, Francis W. and Delight (Moorman) Lawvere, his son, Nevin Lawvere, his first wife Sybil Lawvere, his sister-in-law Dorothy Lawvere, and his brother Albert Lawvere.

He is survived by his beloved life partner of 57 years Fatima Fenaroli Lawvere, now in Chapel Hill, NC; his children, Marco Fenaroli (Medellin, Colombia); John Theodore Lawvere (Tucson, AZ), Philip Lawvere (Angistri, Greece); Danilo Lawvere (Loretta Gmeinder), (Buffalo NY); Silvana Lawvere de Moreno (Adrian Moreno) (Chapel Hill, NC); and grandchildren Edoardo, Odilla and Jamila Lawvere, and Diego Moreno. He is also survived by brother Jon Lawvere (Karen Smile); sister LaRea Lawvere Slater (Jim Slater); Gabi Lawvere (Widow of Albert Lawvere), all still living on the family farm in Matthews, Indiana.

He was adored by friends, family, and colleagues and loving care-givers. They referred to him as a generous spirit, a gentle giant, always ready with a smile and thank you. He will be missed.

No services will be held at this time, however, several memorial celebrations of life and scientific work are anticipated.

Correspondence with family can be sent to his wife Fatima at or to 111 East Winmore Ave., Chapel Hill, NC 27516.


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