IMA Gold Medal 2012
The IMA is pleased to announce that this year’s Gold Medal will be awarded to Dr Malcolm Sabin CMath FIMA. The Institute Gold Medals are awarded in recognition of outstanding contributions to mathematics and its applications over a period of years.
Dr Sabin’s contribution to mathematics and its applications has been summarised by Dr Neil Dodgson FIMA:
Malcolm Sabin pioneered research in computer-aided design (CAD). His principal contributions have been interrogation methods for parametric surfaces, scattered data contouring, transfinite surfaces defined by curves, and subdivision analysis.
Sabin describes himself as ‘an engineer who uses mathematics.’ He played a leading role in building the in-house CAD system at the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), in the late 1960s. This system demonstrated the benefits of CAD and accelerated its uptake in industry. Sabin's technical reports described many aspects of the BAC system that subsequently became mainstream topics for academic investigation.
He moved on to become a consultant to EPSRC, first at the CAD Centre then based at FEGS, recommending on the funding of CAD research. In parallel, he explored the use of B-splines as finite element basis functions: an early attempt into isogeometric analysis. He had spells as a Visiting Professor at Liverpool and as a Royal Society Industrial Visiting Fellow at Cambridge. He now divides his time between collaborations at Cambridge and his own consultancy company, Numerical Geometry.
Two constructions bear his name, Powell-Sabin splines and Doo-Sabin subdivision, but perhaps his greatest legacy is the number of people who would acknowledge that their research critically benefited from his input.
Dr Malcolm Sabin will receive his medal and give a lecture, The Mathematics of Shape, at the Royal Society on 26 June 2013. The abstract is below and tickets will be made available next year.
For as long as people have been working together in making things, they have needed ways of describing shape to each other so that their pieces will fit together.
Today, because the stylist has computer graphics visualisation for making sure that the product looks good, the designer has computational analysis and simulation for making sure that it will work and the production engineer has numerically controlled machines for actually making the parts or moulds, we need ways of describing shape which their various pieces of software can interpret.
This means formal digital descriptions of shape, which in turn demands mathematical foundations.
The appropriateness of different approaches to this depends on the amount of computing power which can economically be deployed, and this is a function of date. The talk will cover half a dozen methods used during living memory for describing the kinds of shapes which are interesting not because of florid imposed detail, but because of their overall, three-dimensional, form.
The outer shapes of cars, ships, aircraft, clothes and even some buildings provide good examples of this class of shape. Characters in computer animated films are another, relatively recent, addition to the gamut of surface shapes that require mathematical representation.
Seeing the different ways that the methods work provides a foundation for understanding why different techniques are used in different industries, and for understanding why some methods displaced others when they did.
The talk will end with some speculation about what new methods might replace those in current use, why, and when.