News

Friday, 29 August 2014

Professor John Bryce McLeod FRS FRSE (1929 - 2014)

Bryce Mcleod

Bryce McLeod received his early education at Aberdeen Grammar School, where his grandfather had been Head of Mathematics and Science. As was not uncommon in the Scottish education system at the time, he followed an accelerated path through the school and moved to the University of Aberdeen at the age of 16, receiving a First-Class BA degree in Mathematics & Natural Philosophy in 1950. He was awarded a scholarship to Oxford University, where he received a second First Class BA degree in 1952. His tutor there. TW Chaundy of Christ Church, was a specialist in differential equations and was influential in shaping Bryce's intellectual path; he coauthored the first of Bryce's 150-plus papers. Following a year as a Rotary Foundation Fellow in Vancouver and two years' National Service, Bryce returned to Oxford to complete a DPhil with Titchmarsh in 1958. He and Eunice married in 1956. After a spell of two years as a Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, during which the first of their four children was born, Bryce returned to Wadham College, Oxford in 1960 and remained there until 1988, becoming a University Lecturer (with a much reduced college teaching load) in 1970.

Throughout this first stage of his career, Bryce had maintained regular contact with applied analysts in the US, in particular in Madison where he spent a number of sabbatical years and greatly expanded his range of contacts; indeed, his twins were born in Madison. He visited the US regularly and received many offers to cross the Atlantic. In 1988, faced with imminent mandatory retirement in the UK and feeling that (unlike today) applied analysis was not properly appreciated at Oxford, he moved to Pittsburgh, where he remained until 2007. He and Eunice had retained their house in the UK, however, and the migration reversed so that summers were often spent in Oxford, visiting the Oxford Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (OCIAM) and the Oxford Centre for Nonlinear PDE (OxPDE), as well as elsewhere in Europe. When Bryce had retired from Pittsburgh they returned to live in Abingdon, while Bryce based himself in OxPDE for the remainder of his career.

Bryce was elected FRSE in 1974 and FRS in 1992. He received the Whittaker Prize of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in 1965, the Keith Medal and Prize of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1987, and the Naylor Prize and Lectureship in Applied Mathematics of the London Mathematical Society in 2011.

Bryce considered himself a problem-solving mathematician rather than a builder of general theories. He liked to focus on a specific hard problem and to find something new to say about it that was at the same time rigorous, interesting and useful. He was, of course, fully au fait with modern techniques but he added to this a deep understanding in the style of the more classical tradition he had inherited from Chaundy, Titchmarsh and their predecessors. He solved problems with consummate skill across an extraordinary range of areas as diverse as fluid mechanics, general relativity, plasma physics, mathematical biology, superconductivity, Painlevé equations, coagulation processes, nonlinear diffusion and pantograph equations, among many others. He had long-lasting and productive collaborations with very many distinguished mathematicians, both applied analysts like himself and modellers whose differential equation had caught his interest: he was always interested to look at new problems unearthed by colleagues working in a more applications-focused way. His work was characterised by great lucidity of thought married to immense creativity and ingenuity of argument. Although he worked on many different problems some general themes did emerge. Prominent among these was the importance of the study of similarity solutions as indicators of more general behaviour, along with the development of a powerful suite of techniques for 'shooting' methods, especially with more than one shooting parameter. A McLeod seminar or lecture was a model of clarity: as the subject unfolded the board was filled from left to right with economical, spare notes in his characteristic hand, and the audience invariably left feeling they had witnessed a tour de force of applied analysis.

Many, many people throughout the mathematical community remember Bryce with great fondness:  for his kindness and support for students and colleagues alike; for his intensely amused laughter or his rapt concentration on an explanation; for his zest for life and mathematics. Just as he was adventurous in the topics he worked on, so he and his family had many adventures along the way. For example, as they visited the US so often, Bryce and Eunice bought what Bryce termed a 'motor caravan' (in fact, a huge Winnebago) and took the family round that vast country on 'a blissful combination of vacation and mathematics'. The last words should be Bryce's: in an interview with John Ball, he was asked what advice he would give a young mathematician just starting their research career. The answer was simple: “Have fun”. Bryce certainly did that.

Sam Howison

August 2014

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Watch our mathematical walk round London

Maths in the City

On Wednesday 27th August at 7pm Oxford Mathematicians Thomas Woolley and Paul Taylor can be seen on London Live (during the "Not The One Show") presenting parts of
the London "Maths in the City" (http://www.mathsinthecity.com/) walking tour which has been incredibly popular with the public. The tours aim to highlight and demonstrate the mathematics that are important in the running and construction of a successful city.

For those of you who do not live in London the footage will be available on the "Not The One Show" website (http://www.londonlive.co.uk/programmes/not-the-one-show) catch up service shortly after the programme has aired.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Nigel Hitchin awarded Honorary Doctorate by Warwick University

Professor Nigel Hitchin, FRS, Savilian Professor of Geometry in the University of Oxford, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of Warwick. Nigel Hitchin is one of the world's foremost geometers, whose "insights", in the words of the citation, "have led him to solutions which required both virtuoso technical skill and the latest mathematical techniques."

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A woman finally wins the Fields Medal after 50 years. Why did it take so long?

Maryam Mirzakhani

The mathematical world and a considerable part of the media are celebrating and debating Maryam Mirzakhani's Fields Medal. Read Professor Sam Howison's Guardian article (and the 467 comments) on possible reasons why we had to wait for 50 Fields medallists to come along before the prize went to a woman. Sam Howison is Professor of Applied Mathematics and Head of Department, Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Fields Medal Winners announced

This year's 4 winners of the 2014 Fields Medal, mathematics most prestigious prize awarded by the International Mathematical Union, have been announced.

Maryam Mirzakhani is a 37-year old Iranian-born Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University in California. Martin Hairer, is a 38-year-old Austrian based at Warwick University in the UK. Manjul Bhargava, is a 40-year old Canadian-American at Princeton University in the US and Artur Avila, 35, is a Brazilian-French researcher at the Institute of Mathematics of Jussieu in Paris. Professor Maryam is the first ever female winner of the Medal.

The Fields Medal was established by Canadian mathematician John Fields and comes with a 15,000 Canadian dollar (£8,000) cash prize. The medal is awarded to between two and four researchers, who must be no older than 40, because Fields wanted to encourage the winners to strive for "further achievement" as well as recognise their success.

Frances Kirwan, Professor of Mathematics in Oxford and a member of the Fields Medal Committee, said of Professor Mirzakhani's success: "I hope that this award will inspire lots more girls and young women, in this country and around the world, to believe in their own abilities and aim to be the Fields Medallists of the future". Read an interview that Professor Mirzakhani gave to the Clay Mathematics Institute where she was a Fellow along with Professors Avila and Bhargava.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw (1912 - 2014)

Kathleen Ollerenshaw

We are sorry to announce the death of distinguished mathematician and educationalist Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw.

Born in 1912 and deaf since the age of eight, Kathleen was an undergraduate at Somerville College where she completed her doctorate in 1945 on "Critical Lattices" under the supervision of Theo Chaundy. She wrote five original research papers which were sufficient for her to earn her DPhil degree without the need of a formal written thesis. 

After the Second World War. Kathleen worked as a part-time lecturer in the School of Mathematics at Manchester University (it was not until after the war that at the age of 37 she received her first effective hearing aid). Kathleen wrote many important research papers, her best-known work being on most-perfect pandiagonal magic squares. She became President of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications from 1978-1979  and an annual public lecture at the School of Mathematics in Manchester is named in her honour.

Kathleen was also politically active, serving as a Conservative Councillor for Rusholme for twenty-six years (1956–1981), and as Lord Mayor of Manchester (1975–1976). She was also involved in the creation of the Royal Northern College of Music. She was made a Freeman of the City of Manchester and was an advisor on educational matters to Margaret Thatcher's government in the 1980s.

Composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies dedicated his Naxos Quartet No.9 to her. She died in Didsbury, Manchester on August 10th 2014.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Marcus Du Sautoy wins Christopher Zeeman Medal

Marcus du Sautoy

The Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) and the London Mathematical Society (LMS) have announced that Professor Marcus du Sautoy, University of Oxford, will receive the 2014 Christopher Zeeman Medal for the Promotion of Mathematics to the Public.

Marcus du Sautoy has held the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford since 2008 and has been communicating mathematics to the general public for more than 20 years. Marcus has appeared in and presented numerous radio and TV programmes, written many popular books and contributed to theatrical productions. These include the School of Hard Sums and TalkSport as well as news programmes on the World Service, BBC Radio 4, 5 Live and local radio. In 2006 Marcus become only the third mathematician to deliver the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. His play X&Y, which grew out of his collaboration with Complicité Theatre Company’s production of A Disappearing Number, is an illuminating, thrilling work of theatre with mathematics genuinely at its core. His work with audiences exploring the mathematics in Mozart’s Magic Flute is similarly remarkable as a piece of mathematical communication.

In a joint statement, IMA President Professor Dame Celia Hoyles and LMS President Professor Terry Lyons FRS said, ‘We are delighted to award the 2014 Zeeman Medal to such a brilliant mathematician and exceptional communicator as Marcus du Sautoy. Mathematics plays a vital role in every aspect of our society and Professor du Sautoy plays a unique role in helping the public to become more excited about mathematics. He has an amazing ability to communicate the magic of mathematics to young and old alike, and to enthuse upcoming generations to engage with the subject.’

The Christopher Zeeman Medal is a triennial award of the IMA and LMS to recognise and reward the contributions of mathematicians involved in promoting mathematics to the public, and to encourage others to work in this area by demonstrating that such activities are valued and are a part of a mathematician’s role and responsibilities. The medal is named in honour of Professor Sir Christopher Zeeman, FRS, one of the UK’s foremost mathematicians who spent much of his career at the Universities of Warwick and Oxford sharing his love of mathematics with the public. In 1978, Sir Christopher was the first ever mathematician to be asked to deliver the Royal Institution’s Christmas lectures in its 125 year history.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Ben Green wins the Royal Society's Sylvester Medal

Professor Ben Green FRS has won the Royal Society's Sylvester Medal for his result on primes in arithmetic progression, and his subsequent proofs of a number of spectacular theorems over the last five to ten years. The Sylvester Medal is awarded biennially (in even years) “for the encouragement of mathematical research”.  The award was created in memory of the mathematician James Joseph Sylvester FRS, who was Savilian Professor of Geometry at the University of Oxford in the 1880s. It was first awarded in 1901. Originally it was awarded triennially, but from 2010 it is now awarded biennially in even years.

 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Life-Saving Mathematics at the British Science Festival, September 2014

Experimentation in critical fields such as heart attack, cancer, brain tumour and stem cells has enabled our knowledge of the human body and its inner workings to increase dramatically during the 20th and 21st centuries, allowing us to live longer than ever before.

Looking to the future, could we increase the pace of medical advances? Could we test possible treatments quickly and cheaply, whilst reducing experimental waste? Could we even identify the most important experiments we need to perform before even putting on a lab coat?

Mathematical modelling has the potential not only to meet these requirements but also to do so much more.

Oxford Mathematicians and Computer Scientists Dr Thomas Woolley, Dr Gary Mirams and Prof. Helen Byrne will be discussing their applications of mathematics and computer science to the pressing medical problems of the 21st Century at the British Science Festival this September in Birmingham, on Wednesday 10th September at 1pm.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Marcus du Sautoy wins The Sir George Thomson Gold Medal

Marcus du Sautoy

Marcus du Sautoy has been awarded The Sir George Thomson Gold Medal from the Institute of Measurement and Control. Awarded quinquennially, the Medal acknowledges contributions to measurement science resulting in fundamental improvements in the understanding of the nature of the physical world.  Sir George Thomson was the first President of the Institute, which office he held from 1944 to 1948.

The award of the Medal to Professor du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, is in recognition of his considerable efforts to promote a positive public perception of mathematics and to explain the mathematician’s role in helping our understanding of our world.  The prize recognises the important contribution made by the series Marcus made on measurement for the BBC: Precision: The Measure of All Things. As part of the award he will give the Thomson lecture at the Royal Society on October 23, entitled 'From Measurement to Mathematics.'

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