James Laurie Snell
March 19, 2011

James Laurie Snell, died on Saturday, March 19, 2011 of acute leukemia at the age of 86. He was born January 15, 1925, in Wheaton, Illinois to Roy Judson Snell, writer of children's adventure stories and one of the writers for the radio program "Jack Armstrong", and Lucile Ziegler Snell, a piano teacher and performer.

The family spent entire summers on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, where Laurie continued to return for 80 years.

He was a graduate of Wheaton High School and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Illinois. He served in the Navy between his undergraduate and graduate studies. Laurie started his professional career as a newspaper delivery boy and later continued as a Fine Instructor of mathematics at Princeton.

He moved to Hanover in 1954 where he taught at Dartmouth in the Mathematics Department until retiring in 1995. At Dartmouth he also chaired the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program. After retirement, he founded "Chance news", an internet-based magazine that is available on line. An author of probability and statistics books and papers, frequently written with colleagues, he was honored internationally for his idea known as the "Snell Envelope", so named by the Russian mathematician, Kolmogorov.

In celebration of the financial success of the book "Finite Mathematics", written with John Kemeny and Gerald Thompson, he bought a house and barn in Norwich.

He converted the barn into an opera house, a haven for amateur musicians and artists.

Laurie was a passionate singer and participated in many music groups throughout his life.

He is survived by Joan, his wife of 58 years; his son John and wife Janet Flory of Lincoln, Massachusetts; his daughter Mary Paige and husband Bill Bernstein of Montclair, New Jersey; and three grandchildren, Molly, Savannah, and Jackson.

He was pre-deceased by two brothers, Francis Judson Snell, and John Ellis Snell.

At his request there will be no memorial service. Gifts in his memory may be made to Kendal at Hanover, the Cadbury Fund, 80 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755; or to the Department of Mathematics, 27 North Main Street, 6188 Kemeny Hall, Hanover, NH 03755.


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Rand - Wilson Funeral Home
11 1/2 School Street
Hanover, NH 03755