Catastrophe mathematician receives David Crighton Award
Media release 4 October 2006
Professor Sir Christopher Zeeman FRS has been awarded a unique medal to recognise his contribution to both mathematics and to the mathematics community.
Sir Christopher is an internationally renowned mathematician who pioneered new areas of study, most famously in catastrophe theory. He is the founder of one of the UK’s leading university mathematics departments and has used his considerable enthusiasm in his work for UK mathematical organisations. His work in engaging the public in mathematics has been exceptional.
He is the second ever recipient of the David Crighton Medal, which is awarded by the London Mathematical Society and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. The medal is given for his contributions to research, to mathematics in higher education, to the mathematical societies and in outreach activities with schools and the public.
As a mathematician, Sir Christopher has contributed across a several fields. His early work in topology led him to prove a specific case of the Poincaré Conjecture in 1961, whilst his later work moved into dynamical systems and singularity theory. From here, he began to develop Rene Thom’s work in catastrophe theory which is where he is best known. It was Sir Christopher who took the work from pure mathematical theory and put it into practice, applying it not only to the physical sciences, but also biology and social science.
Throughout his research career, Sir Christopher has been active in the wider mathematical community. He was invited to set up the Department of Mathematics and the Mathematics Research Centre at the University of Warwick when it was founded in 1964. By the time the first undergraduates arrived a year later, the department had already established an international reputation under Sir Christopher’s remarkable leadership. He was also chaired the committee which led to the creation of the Newton Institute at Cambridge which aims to encourage free interaction in research in any area of the mathematical sciences across any international boundary.
In 1978, Sir Christopher was the first mathematician to deliver the Royal Institution Christmas lectures in their 160 year history. His lectures gave rise to the Mathematics Masterclass programme which now offers weekly mathematics lectures to 13 year olds across 50 venues nationally.
Sir Christopher was elected to the Royal Society in 1975. He was awarded the society’s Faraday Medal in 1988 for his contribution to public understanding of science. He served as President of the London Mathematical Society from 1986-88 and received the senior Whitehead Prize of the Society in 1982 for his contribution to mathematics. He served as the President of the Mathematical Association in 2003/04, where he campaigned for the power and beauty of mathematics to be at the heart of mathematics education. In 1988 took up the post of principal of Hertford College, Oxford and since retiring in 1995 he remains an honorary fellow of the college. He was knighted in 1991 for “mathematical excellence and service to British mathematics and mathematics education”.
The presentation of the David Crighton Medal will take place at a joint meeting of the IMA and the LMS in 2007 on a date to be announced, and will be followed by a lecture from Sir Christopher.
Notes for Editors
1. The Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) is the professional and learned society for qualified and practising mathematicians. Its mission is to promote mathematics in industry, business, the public sector, education and research. Founded in 1964, the Institute now has 5500 members. Ten percent of members live outside the United Kingdom. Forty percent of members are employed in education (schools through to universities), and the other 60% work in commercial and governmental organisations. In 1990 the Institute was incorporated by Royal Charter and was subsequently granted the right to award chartered mathematician status.
2. The London Mathematical Society (LMS) is the UK's learned society for mathematics. Founded in 1865 for the promotion and extension of mathematical knowledge, the Society is concerned with all branches of mathematics and its applications. It is an independent and self-financing charity, with a membership of over 2600 drawn from all parts of the UK and overseas. Its principal activities are the organisation of meetings and conferences, the publication of periodicals and books, the provision of financial support for mathematical activities, and the contribution to public debates on issues related to mathematics research and education. It works collaboratively with other mathematical bodies worldwide. It is the UK adhering body to the International Mathematical Union and is a member of the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, which comprises the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the Royal Statistical Society together with the London Mathematical Society.
3. The David Crighton Award was instituted by the IMA and LMS in memory of Professor David George Crighton FRS, (15 November 1942 − 12 April 2000) a former President of the IMA and President-Designate of the LMS at the time of his death. David was Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, and Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cambridge University; he was a leader in the fields of Fluid Mechanics and Applied Mathematics, influencing their progress nationally and internationally through his contributions both to research and administration. The Medal is awarded triennially to an eminent mathematician for services both to mathematics and to the mathematical community.
4. For further information contact:
Caroline Davis (Mathematics Policy and Promotion Officer, LMS) − De Morgan House, 57–58 Russell Square, London WC1B 4HS. Tel: +44 (0)20 7927 0804. email@example.com