In Loving Memory of Samuel Burstein

October 04, 1935
Brooklyn, NY
July 24, 2020
Fairfield, CT
Funeral Home

Spear-Miller Funeral Home

39 South Benson Road,
Fairfield CT US 06824


A memorial to celebrate Sam's life will be held post-COVID


Family Gathering


Tandon School of Engineering Emergency Student Relief Fund in Sam's name

Samuel Z. Burstein

BURSTEIN – Samuel Z., 84, of Fairfield, CT, died on July 24, 2020 of pancreatic cancer. Born on October 4, 1935, to Aaron and Pauline (Weixel) Burstein, he brought great joy to, and is mourned by, his beloved wife of 37 years, Susan (Nelson) Burstein and his adoring family: daughter Leslie Balbos (Michael) of Brooklyn, NY; stepdaughter Katie Roper (Preston) of Los Altos, CA; stepdaughter Betsy Stoeber (Russell Miller) of South Orange, NJ; stepson Peter Schmidt (Eleanor) of Greenville, NC; grandchildren Ellen Roper, Karsten Stoeber, Gregory Roper, Charlie Schmidt, Johannes Stoeber, Riley Schmidt, and Lucy Schmidt; brother Albert Burstein (Myra); sister Rebecca Eilers (Ray Plotnick); and many nieces, nephews, other cherished relatives, and dear friends.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Sam attended high school at Brooklyn Tech. He earned his Bachelors (1957), Masters (1958), and Doctoral (1962) degrees in Mechanical Engineering from The Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, now New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. From 1962-1988, Sam was Associate Professor of Mathematics at The Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. Courant, described in A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia Nasar’s biography of mathematician John Nash, as “the national capital of applied mathematical analysis,” was ”already rivaling more established mathematical centers like Princeton and Cambridge” in the early 1960s when Sam started there. In 1958, Nash wrote that “'the open problems in the area of non-linear partial differential equations are very relevant to applied mathematics and science as a whole, perhaps more so than the open problems in any other area of mathematics, and this field seems poised for rapid development. It seems clear, however, that fresh methods must be employed.” Sam’s 1964 paper "Numerical methods in multidimensional shocked flow," published in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Journal, presented at the AIAA aerospace sciences meeting, and sponsored by the Atomic Energy Commission Computing and Applied Mathematics Center at the Courant Institute, provided exactly the kind of fresh methods Nash had called for.

Sam’s work on the mathematics of shockwaves in supersonic flow led to research for the Atomic Energy Commission at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He continued to publish papers (many were classified), taught mathematics at NYU, lectured internationally, and published the textbook Calculus with Applications and Computing (SpringerVerlag 1976) with co-authors Peter Lax, a mentor for Sam, and Anneli Lax, both colleagues at Courant. The book would be translated into six languages. Over time, Sam became increasingly involved in the burgeoning field of applied computing. In 1988, he moved full-time to Hilliard Farber & Co., an interdealer brokerage firm. There, Sam played an instrumental role in development of computer systems that served as infrastructure for the rapidly growing bond markets. After retirement in 2002, Sam continued to consult on multiple systems-related projects.

Sam immersed himself in an astonishing range of activities and interests. He spent decades involved in the world of high fidelity audio equipment and recordings, reviewing components and classical LPs for publications like Stereophile and Sounds Like... He built museum-quality models of full-rigged, historic sailing ships, translating instructions from Italian and replacing packaged balsa wood with higher quality materials he cut by hand. An avid tennis player himself, Sam followed international tournaments and player rankings for years. He found joy in painting and learned to play the cello in his 70s. Sam remembered his first VW fondly, drove his BMW with gusto, and most recently, was infatuated with his Tesla Model S. Having eaten at fine restaurants, including many on trips around the world with his darling wife and their friends, Sam savored Susie’s home-cooked meals and handmade pies above all else; chocolate cake was up there, too. Planning and maintaining their gardens, reading and attending book club, and spending time with treasured friends and family were additional passions. A memorial to share memories of Sam and to celebrate his life will be planned post-COVID. Please consider a donation to The Tandon School of Engineering Emergency Student Relief Fund in Sam’s name: and eat a scoop of chocolate chocolate chip ice cream in his memory.

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29 Guestbook Entries for Samuel Z. Burstein

  1. Susan, I am so very sorry to hear of Sam’s passing. What a lucky man he was to have you as his wife and partner. As were you to spend much of your life with this extraordinary man. May the memory of your many happy years together bring you some peace and comfort. Sending love and hugs until I see you again.

    With deepest condolences,

    Liz Zezima

  2. He was a gem and don’t forget those AMAZING miniature wooden ships he built and were prominently displayed in glass cases in their sunroom. So much talent! Peace.

  3. My brother Sam has always been my best friend, surrogate father, childhood baby sitter, body guard protecting me from thoses dangerous 12 year-old boys, but most of all, the rock at the center of my life. He taught me love of science, constancy in committment, fractions in 5th grade, egoless accomplishment, and joy in living with a treasured partner, and the unconditional beauty of love.

    Now his physical substance is gone to ashes but his voice echos in my mind and heart. We continue our conversations, but I supply both sides, inspired by his adored memory.

  4. Sam was a very special person to me, and to our entire family, and we are all deeply saddened by his passing. I knew him from the time I was a baby, and my dad knew him from the time he was a teenager; we both referred to him as Dr. Sam, and he felt like a member of our family, always present at milestones of my life. I will never forget when I would go to the house every week in high school when I was taking, and struggling with, AP Calculus, and Sam graciously and enthusiastically agreed to tutor me. I was amazed at how intuitively he understood high mathematical concepts that I could not wrap my head around. But he never got frustrated even if I did, and he would always work with me not for a fixed amount of time, but for however long it took until I understood the material, because that’s the kind of person he was.

    We will miss Sam dearly. To Susan and the rest of his family, I hope that you can find comfort in these difficult times.

  5. Susie and family – the Kushmerick Hekker family sends you lots of love and deepest sympathy! We always looked forward to seeing you and Sam at holiday parties or dinners at Betsy’s house. It was very evident how much he loved his family and being a part of their lives. He will be greatly missed.

  6. When I think of Sam, it’s at the head of the table, enjoying dinner, laughing, asking why there’s no chocolate chocolate chip ice cream to go with whatever dessert is being brought out. Or, driving his Tesla and enjoying all the bells and whistles. Or walking around in the garden, surveying the many plants he’s added over the years. Or, arriving for a visit with a book under his arm on math or science or the markets. Always reading. Or enjoying an action film with my guys, his grandsons. Or giving hugs. Or building ships. Or telling a slightly racy joke and enjoying making us cringe. Or, advising me on a DIY project or hiring someone to help. Always picking up his cell when I called and always having something constructive and supportive to say. Adoring his grandchildren and going to bat for them in so many ways. And mostly, loving his Susie and telling us all how wonderful, amazing, and beautiful she is. There won’t be a day I don’t miss our Sam. He was simply the best.

  7. Dear Suzie, Betsy and all of the clan, Sam was such an amazing role model for how a loving, gentle man could be. We were so lucky to have his warm laughter and calm, stabilizing energy especially during those years.

    Thank you for sharing him with us.

    With love,

  8. Susan – I’m so sorry that Sam has passed. Please accept condolences from Kathy and I and let us know if we can help in any way.

    I know he was a great guy because he was married to you.

  9. I am Sam’s brother-in-law from far away Minnesota. My sister brought Sam into our family in her calm fashion. He was not introduced as a high powered mathematician. He was just Sam, the man she loved.
    So how did a math genius, who had worked with the famous, interact with his new family?
    He talked with us. Our interests were interesting to Sam.
    Childhood memories? Of course. Politics. Science. Happiness.
    Sam ate with us. We might have served spaghetti and a salad. That was fine. The simple meal was always enjoyable with Sam and Susan at the table.
    Sam understood more math than we knew existed, but in the family Sam was just a welcome addition.
    We will miss Sam’s involvement in our conversations at the table. “Well, let me tell you. In Brooklyn ….”

  10. What a beautiful and fitting tribute. Uncle Sam was such an amazing guy–brilliant obviously, but also so kind, supportive, caring, and funny. I have always looked forward to visits with Sam and Susan–the great conversations, the wonderful stories, the pie. He will be deeply missed by all of us.

    Most sincere condolences to all of you who knew and loved Sam best. And thank you for sharing him with us.

    With Love,
    Sarah Nelson

  11. Sam’s introduction to our family (Nelson) was rather unfortunate. My dad (Richard Nelson) liked to fish and he told me that he always wanted to try for salmon/trout on Lake Michigan. Since we live pretty close to the lake, I said I could easily line up a trip. My son, Ben, my brother-in- law, Dave, Dad, and I were set to go. Sue heard about our plans and asked if the new guy she was seeing and her son, Peter, could be included. Of course they were welcome! Sam was all for it; “it’s a lake, can’t be that bad.“
    So we met in Appleton and early in the morning got together with our guide in Two Rivers, WI. We went out a few miles on the lake, then stopped, set up our fishing lines, and started to “troll.” That involves going fairly slowly, dragging the bait so it attracts the attention of the fish, but not so fast they can’t bite on the bait. It also means you’re moving slow enough that you can feel the rise and fall of the swells and the side-to-side rocking of the waves. If you’re used to being on the water or busy fishing, it’s not a big deal, but neither of those applied to Sam. Pretty soon, he wasn’t feeling great and a short time later was SICK! We had a bucket for him to use and it became my job, when his stomach settled, to empty the bucket over the side and rinse it out. Curiously, we found that after I’d empty the bucket, we’d catch fish!! So, we tried to encourage Sam to eat a sandwich or drink a beer….. ok, this is humor that not everyone would enjoy. But we did catch quite a few fish and my Dad was very happy! Apparently, Sam did not hold a grudge as we got together a lot (always on shore) after that. And he did learn that while Lake Michigan is only a lake – it’s damn big!

    I honestly love Sam – we had fun together, I learned a lot from him, and am better for having known him.

  12. We are so saddened to just be getting this news. We both enjoyed the time we shared great conversation with Sam at Ken’s home. Our hearts are sad for you Susan at this difficult time.

  13. Sam was my father in all but biology. He brought love and joy to our lives from the very first days. I remember my first visit home from college after he joined us, and it was as if someone flipped a switch and the air of sadness and stress that had permeated the family dynamic for so long was instantly replaced by happiness. For the next 38 years, he and Mom laughed, talked, loved, and cared for each other and for us. His passing leaves a big hole.

  14. Aunt Susan please know Ben & I are thinking and praying for you during this difficult time. Uncle Sam always brought joy to where ever he was. One of my best memories was when we came to visit and stayed at your house. You both made us feel so welcome. I loved the way that he took such interest in not just me but Ben and the kids. Please know that we loved him so much and will miss him. Love to you all♥️

  15. My dear Aunt Sue, I read this and shared with our family early this week and love the memorial idea (I think I forgot to put the ID in but oh well). Sam gave so much joy off just being with you and we loved your visits. We will miss him. Lots of love going out to you—

  16. My condolences to the family and everyone who loved Sam. Knowing what I know about him, he’s listening to the most finely tuned speakers in the universe right now. All with their own preamp.

  17. Sam and I had some things in common–Brooklyn born and raised, NYU–but that’s where the similarities end. Wow, was Sam a brilliant man! He had such amazing accomplishments in mathematics yet, from what my dear friend Betsy told me, he was very humble about it all. I only met him a few times at holiday dinners at Betsy’s house and from what I could tell, Sam loved dessert and his family, and not in that order. My condolences to Susie, Betsy, Karsten, Johannes and the rest of Sam’s loving family.

  18. Uncle Sam was always a sight for soar eyes. His smile transcends the speed of light and spreads like fairy dust into the depths of your heart. He will stay very much alive in our hearts💕

  19. Dear Susan, I am so, so sorry to hear that Sam has transitioned. Sam was such a dear, so warm and kind, and I remember his delicious cooking. My heart is with you and Katie and the rest of the family. I’m sending you all love, strength, and solace during this time of profound sorrow.

  20. The first time I met Sam was at a celebratory party on Bay Avenue (pre or post?) his marriage to Susan. My Dad gave a toast, reading a poem he had written that ended with a line about how lucky Sam was – rhyming with the one that came before it – “that he got Susan”. How true that was. But what we didn’t know at the time was how lucky Susan, her family and all those that loved them, was to get Sam. He was kind of heart, generous of spirit – and most memorably – the most expert carver I ever met! Whether it be the Thanksgiving turkey, the Easter leg of lamb, the Christmas pot roast – and whatever we ate for Hanukah (!) – Sam prepared the star dish of every holiday meal our families shared for decades. For over 30 years, he was a loyal, dedicated and supportive friend to my parents – and an uncle by extension to me – and for both I’m exceedingly grateful. Sending much love to Susan, Leslie, Katie, Betsy and Pete – and to the extended family.

  21. Reading a few of the tributes written below I struggle to carve out a superlative not previously used. I wanted to use Gem but that was already used but I will yet use it. Sam was a gem of a person. We were so lucky to get to know him over the past 10 or so years. While we didn’t know him as long as others it doesn’t take long to know what a loving, caring and thoughtful man Sam was. He and Susan welcomed us to their home and Thanksgiving became a bit of feature for all of us. Beyond all the talents he had, Sam made the best turkey! His ability to make you feel comfortable and always making you welcome and at home was amazing. He and Susan were such lovely hosts and we could see how he interacted with his grandchildren and ours that he had the ability to connect with all ages. Not to mention the charming effect he had on our sweet four legged, Leo! Suffice it to say they shared a mutual affection from the time they met.
    Sam will be missed by the Peiris family for more reasons than one. May he Rest In Peace

  22. Susan, we were so sorry to hear the news of Sam’s passing and send our heartfelt condolences to you and the entire family. Sam was such a wonderful, supportive, generous and dear friend to the Kline family over the last 30+ years. I will always be in awe of how passionately he spoke of his many interests and hobbies. Each year we left the holiday table not only with full stomachs and warm hearts but with some new knowledge for the noggin! I will cherish conversations on the science behind grilling meat, how to properly record a piece of music, the provenance and history of a certain sailing ship and the simple beauty of a one handed backhand, to name just a few. He was one of a kind and we will truly miss him.

    Paul, Brooke Lauren and Lola

  23. The last time I saw Sammy a few years back I reminded him of a book that he showed me once when I came over to his house when I was in high school. I was by that time engrossed in physics and math, and he took out a little book that was (I think) something about the mathematics of modeling weather and climate. And he was amused to tell me that the author, in the course of writing the book, ran out of symbols to use for the various physical quantities that appear ion the equations. So the author invented new ones — a line drawing of a very small leaf to represent how much water evaporates from leaves in a tree, and things like that. He remembered the book when I mentioned it to him then and we smiled together at the memory. When I was thinking of all of this the other day I think that I remembered Sam introducing me to the Feynman Lectures on Physics when I was a high school student ( which were 3 volumes of lectures that the famous physicist Feynman gave at Caltech. So I got myself a copy and read them. And then a few years later on I ended up going to Caltech as a grad student with my office around the corner from Feynman’s. So, it some way this was his fault ;-). My feeling always, through all my years of knowing him since I was born as a sweet and gentle man, was one of warm anticipation each time I was to see him. Well this may be true about all the people in our family! But I always have felt a special connection to him and through my young adult life onwards felt also that he was a roll model. I miss him and always will…

  24. Others have already commented on Sam’s sweet personality and his intellectual brilliance.
    We will share some remembrances from activities shared; first some memories from our shared riverboat cruise to the netherlands; we, the Bursteins and the jernows were together for several special weeks for the “Windmills and Tulips” trip. Our time together was joyful, with Sam commenting at the end that “this was one of my best vacations ever.” He enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere on board, as well as the wonderfully prepared meals. His ready wit and easy smile was appreciated by all. One slight complication was that Sam thought he had only packed one pair of pants for the entire cruise; we were all surprised , and then I (Judith) offered to help search in the Burstein cabin for additional pants; sure enough, I found some carefully sequestered under a shirt! Sam was forever grateful.
    Another important activity was our long running book club meetings; Sam was a discriminating reader, preferring shorter novels and nonfiction; he introduced us to some gems we would not have ordinarly read on our own. We shared meals at each others’ homes( the Klines,Jernows, Bursteins and Adlers.) Sam particularly enjoyed the time Jack brought jelly doughnuts as the dessert. We all looked forward to the afternoons spent at the Bursteins with Sam hovering over the barbecue, preparing perfectly grilled lamb chops, sitting around the pool, surrounded by Sam’s bounteous garden.
    We were lucky to have spent so many joyous times together
    We, Judith and Jack Adler will miss Sam’s presence forever.

  25. Dear Susan &Family,
    What a tremendous loss for us as well as all of you, AND our bookclub. Fifteen or more years sharing books and dinner, Sam’s wonderful barbecued lamb chops and Susan’s pies! His thrilling sense of garden design, his generosity in sharing hostas and my beautiful Sam Japanese’s maple; our wonderful jaunts in CT and Westchester to Open Days at the Garden Conservancy with Sam at the wheel of the Tesla which he delighted to drive.
    It is rare to meet a couple like Sam and Susan who so perfectly suited each other. They were always a gentle reminder of how good life could get as a couple and as parents and grandparents. Sam leaves a hole in our hearts.
    Lots of Love, Herb and Judy.

  26. I cried when I heard the news. Such a wonderful lovely smart modest giving gentle funny astute man. It was a pleasure to be in the company of Susan and Sam, every time. He will be SO missed.