Mathematical Institute Visual Mathematics
Published by:
Mathematical Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Editor: Ljiljana Radovic
ISSN: 1821-1437
Mathematical Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Obituary in memory of Slavik Jablan (1952. - 2015.)

by Ljiljana Radovic.

After a long and brave battle with a serious illness, our dear friend and colleague Slavik Jablan has passed away on February 26, 2015. The world is deprived of a remarkable mathematician, a great artist, wonderful man and dear friend. He made significant contributions to many areas of mathematics: geometry, group theory, mathematical crystallography, the theory of symmetry, antisymmetry, colored symmetry, combinatorial geometry and knot theory, visual mathematics and mathematical art.

Slavik Jablan was born on June 10, 1952 in Sarajevo, in former Yugoslavia (now in Bosnia-Herzegovina). He grew up in Sarajevo, Dubrovnik and Belgrade. He studied at the University of Belgrade and graduated in 1977 in theoretical mathematics from the Faculty of Mathematics, University of Belgrade, where also obtained his MA in 1981 and Ph.D. in 1984, with a thesis entitled Theory of Simple and Multiple Antisymmetry in E2 and E2\{O}. In 1985 and 1988, he pursued an advanced scientific program in colored symmetry at the University of Kishinev in the former USSR (now Chișinău, Republic of Moldova), Visiting scientific program, USA & Canada, 1990 , Lectures at the University of Wisconsin (Madison, Department of Math) and Indiana University (Bloomington, Department of Anthropology) Visiting scientific program, Tsukuba University, Tsukuba, Science City, Japan, 1999, Fulbright Schoolar, 2003-2004, USA, and many others.  

Slavik Jablan started his carreer at the PTT School center and at the Pedagogical Academy for Teacher Training in Belgrade where he worked until 1984. He moved to the Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Mathematics at the University of Niš in southern Serbia, where he was a professor of geometry until 1999. In that year he returned to Belgrade, to work at the College of Information and Communication Technology. He also created and held a visual mathematics course for designers at the Metropolitan University in Belgrade. During the years he also worked as a researcher at the Mathematical Institute of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, where he was the Editor of the VisMath electronic journal (,  and the Editor in Chief of Symmetry journal.  He was a member of the ISIS-Symmetry Advisory Board (The International Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Symmetry) as well as a member of many others math society.

His scientific roots were in deriving and cataloguing groups of simple and multiple antisymmetry of based on an antisymmetry characteristic (AC) method that he developed in his PhD thesis. Using AC methods it was possible to derive and to distinguish different antisymmetry groups based on its antisymmetry characteristic. He was also interested in enantiomorphism forms and chirality.  His first PhD student Lj. Radovic continued his work and implemented method of antisymmetry characteristic in computation of multiplied antisymmetry groups by computer. He published more than 30 scientific papers on this topic as well as several monographs: Theory of Symmetry and Ornament, APXAIA, Belgrade, 1984 (in Serbo-Croatian); Geometry in Pre-Scientific Period & Ornament Today, Math. Inst., History of Math. and Mech. Sci., 3, Belgrade, 1989; Theory of Symmetry and Ornament, Math. Inst., Belgrade, 1995.; Symmetry, Ornament and Modularity, World Scientific, New York 2002. 

In last 20 years Slavik Jablan was working in knot theory.  He developed the LinKnot software package and contributed with many significant scientific papers and a monograph, entitled LinKnot - Knot theory by computer, World Scientific, Singapore (2007) and webMathematica book Linknot ( (with R. Sazdanovic). From the very beginning of his work in Knot theory, he had different approach and his work was based on work with the families of knots and links. This has also opened the door of experimental mathematics and result based on large sets of data, giving the possibility to propose hypotheses but also to check some. His last PhD student, A. Zekovic, defended her PhD theses “Conway notation in knot theory and its application in methods for determining the distance between knots” on the same day when Slavik Jablan passed away. 

Slavik Jablan was one of the most important researchers in visual mathematics. All his life he was trying to make a bridge between science and art. He was interested in the history of ornamental art and pattern analysis, modularity, visual perception, Celtic art, ornamental design, key-patterns, Roman mazes and labyrinths, Paleolithic ornaments, or op-art puzzles... His contribution to the symmetry approach of ornamental design by SpaceTilesKnotTiles, and specially OpTiles based on modularity will be remembered by all. As a painter and Math-artist has more than 15 exhibitions and the award at the International Competition of Industrial Design and New Technology CEVISAMA‑'87 (Valencia, Spain) for Two-Colored Ornamental Tilings based on modularity, and Mathematics and Design (1998).

The concept of visual geometry and visual mathematics, mostly based on the symmetry analysis of visual arts and ornamental, he presented at the conferences of ISIS-Symmetry , BRIDGES, Gathering for Gardner and many others as well as in the series of lectures all around the world - at the University of Wisconsin (Madison, Dept. Math.), Indiana University (Bloomington, Dept. Anthropology), Technische Universität (Vienna, Austria, Dept. Geometry), Symmetry and Visual Perception at Faculty of Philosophy (Belgrade, Dept. Experimental Psychology), Symmetry and Visual Arts at the National Museum (Belgrade), Classification of Ornaments at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Belgrade)... 

His love and passion for ornamental art lasted all his life. He was invited to give contribution “Classification of Ornaments” for the catalog of the exhibition “Memory update – Ornaments of Serbian Medieval Frescoes”, held in Museum of Applied Arts, Belgrade, November 2013. – March  2014. In November 2014 he had his last exhibition, Do you like Paleolithic ornamental art? in the RTS Gallery in Belgrade.

I had a pleaser to be a student of prof Slavik Jablan at the Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Mathematics at the University of Niš in 1990. Prof Slavik Jablan also was my mentor for my Master and PhD theses. During 25 years of collaborations, he became my precocious friend. It was a great privilege to learn from him, not only mathematics, geometry, not only about symmetry and knots, but also about arts and artist, paintings and painters, about anthropology, archeology, architecture, ethnology, about movies, music, windsurfing… 

Slavik Jablan was a brilliant mathematician and artist, and above all, a wonderful man, unselfish in sheering ideas, information, knowledge, books, graphics…It was not always easy to follow the velocity and numerous of his thoughts and original ideas, amazing creativity and huge intelligence, but it was a great honor to work with him being his friend .  He has always had new ideas what we can do next, what we should write about, prepared new materials, workshops, projects…

During all these years, we were working on many papers and projects together.  Even posthumously he continues to spread the message about the mathematical beauty of Serbia, through the exhibition. This exhibition, to which he contributed about the mathematical aspects, is starting a tour around the world. His spirit will travel with it.

In last two years we were working on several projects. Our work on the paper Classification of ornaments  for the exhibition “Memory Update – Ornaments of Serbian Medieval Frescoes” based on Serbian fresco medieval art is especially precious as well as the book Visual mathematics with Jay Kapraff which should be published this year. He has also done a lot of education material for the teachers included in Tempus project "Visuality & Mathematics: Experiental Education of Mathematics through Visual Arts, Sciences and Playful Activities. We all were able to learn how to live and fight in spite of the problems. In the last year, in spite of his illness, he has done so much, published several significant papers in Knot theory, he was mentoring A. Zekovic PhD, actively took part as one of the leaders in Tempus project, had two exhibitions, first in September and the last one in November 2014, at the RTS Gallery in Belgrade, which was followed by several lectures and workshops…He will be missed by all, and remembered for his enthusiasm, cheerful spirit vision, enormous creativity and his great mind.

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