Friday, 5 September 2014

Brain injuries in sport

Brain scan

The International Brain Mechanics and Trauma Lab at the University of Oxford is a compelling example of modern scientific collaboration. Comprising academics from across the sciences, both medical and life science and including Mathematicians and Engineers, the lab is pooling its talents to better understand the relations between brain-tissue mechanics and brain function, diseases and trauma.
The lab and its collaborators are addressing a range of issues around impact and brain function, notably in sports injuries as society wakes up to the potential damage that our sports men and women face from impact injuries. As this article in the Irish Times explains, a deeper understanding requires a pooling of resources to examine the brain at cell, tissue and medical levels.

Friday, 5 September 2014

John Ball re-elected to International Council for Science Executive Board

International Council for Science

Professor John Ball, Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy & Director, Oxford Centre for Nonlinear PDE, University of Oxford has been re-elected as a member of the International Council for Science Executive BoardThe International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-governmental organisation with a global membership of national scientific bodies (121 Members, representing 141 countries) and International Scientific Unions (32 Members). ICSU’s mission is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society. To do this, ICSU mobilizes the knowledge and resources of the international science community.

Friday, 5 September 2014

International Council for Science endorses open access to scientific record; cautions against misuse of metrics

International Council for Science

The General Assembly of the International Council for Science today endorsed open access principles and provided key recommendations guarding against the misuse of metrics in the evaluation of research performance. In a strong show of support for open access to the scientific record, the Assembly, which unites representatives of 120 national scientific academies and 31 international scientific unions, today voted for the statement which stakes out 5 key goals for open access, and offers 12 recommendations that pave the road for attaining them. 

"Open Access is a key mechanism to support the development of science and of vital importance to all scientists both young and old," said Prof. John Ball, who led the ICSU working group that developed the statement. "It is a powerful tool for creating and validating knowledge, and for supporting science as a public good, and not as something carried out behind closed doors," he added.

The five goals in the statement assert that access to the scientific record should be free of financial barriers for any researcher to contribute to; free of financial barriers for any user to access immediately on publication; made available without restriction on reuse for any purpose, subject to proper attribution; quality-assured and published in a timely manner; and archived and made available in perpetuity.

The statement also makes twelve recommendations for achieving these goals, including recommendations on metrics, stating that these, when used as an aid to the evaluation of research and researchers, should help promote open access and open science. It also cautions that metrics should be regarded as an aid, and not a substitute, for good decision-making. They should not normally be used in isolation to assess the performance of researchers, to determine appointments, or to distribute funds to individuals or research groups, for which it says expert review is indispensable.

The Council's position takes account of the specific situation related to research data, asserting that publishers should require authors to provide explicit references to the datasets underlying published research. They also should require clear assurances that these datasets are deposited and available in trusted and sustainable digital repositories. Citing datasets in reference lists using an accepted standard format should be considered the norm. 

The statement also suggests that terms of contracts governing the purchase of scientific periodicals and databases by libraries serving universities and research establishments should be publicly accessible.

The full report is available for download.


The International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-governmental organisation with a global membership of national scientific bodies (121 Members, representing 141 countries) and International Scientific Unions (31 Members). It mobilizes the knowledge and resources of the international scientific community to strengthen international science for the benefit of society.


Sir John Ball is Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Oxford. He was the President of the International Mathematical Union from 2003–06 and is a Fellow of The Queen's College, Oxford. He was educated at the University of Cambridge and Sussex University, and prior to taking up his Oxford post was a professor of mathematics at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He is also a member of the Executive Board of the International Council for Science (ICSU).

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" ( 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 ( 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.