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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11 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