Mumford and Gowers to Give Public Lectures
This coming year, two Fields Medalists will be visiting the University of Washington: David Mumford (in February 2006) and Timothy Gowers (in April 2006). The Fields Medal is the most prestigious award given to mathematicians; it is awarded every four years at the International Congress of Mathematicians.
Timothy Gowers Is This Year's Milliman Lecturer
Our 2005-2006 Milliman Lecturer, Professor Timothy Gowers, is scheduled to visit the department and deliver three lectures during the week of April 3-7, 2006.
Timothy Gowers is the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. He works in combinatorics, combinatorial number theory, and the theory of Banach spaces, and has made fundamental contributions to each of these fields. Before Gowers' work, most mathematicians would have viewed these as being unrelated, but Gowers has shown otherwise, to great success: in 1998 he was awarded a Fields Medal. In 1996 he received the Prize of the European Mathematical Society, and in 1999 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society.
Banach spaces are important in quantum physics, as well as in mathematics, and mathematicians and physicists study their inner structure and their symmetries. When Gowers began working on Banach spaces, many of the most important problems were rather old, dating from the work of the eponymous Polish mathematician Stefan Banach (1892-1945). Solving one fifty-year old problem is significant, but Gowers has in fact settled a number of these.
In combinatorics Gowers has worked on problems involving arithmetic progressions and randomness in graph theory. One notable result was a beautiful new proof of a famous theorem of Emre Szemeredi about random graphs. He has also studied Ramsey numbers and related topics. (The Ramsey number R(3,3) can be defined as the number of people one must invite to a party in order to guarantee that at least three people all know each other or at least three people have never met. It turns out that R(3,3)=6. The Ramsey numbers R(m,n) can be defined analogously, and they are hard to compute; for example, the exact value of R(5,5) is not known.)
Gowers also wrote the wonderful book, Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction.
David Mumford to Give Walker-Ames Lecture
On February 21, 2006, Professor David Mumford of Brown University will give a Walker-Ames Lecture on "The Lure of the Abstract: Case Studies in Math and Art."
Mumford is one of the most renowned and honored mathematicians in the world: he received the Fields Medal in 1974; he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1975 at the age of 38; and he was a MacArthur Fellow from 1987 to 1992.
He was trained in the field of algebraic geometry, and it was for his contributions in this area that he was awarded the Fields Medal. In the early eighties, he switched fields and focused on problems concerning vision and pattern recognition. As he puts it in his biography in Encyclopedia Britannica, "I turned from algebraic geometry to an old love – is there a mathematical approach to understanding thought and the brain?" For the past 20 years he has been in a quest to understand and formulate the vision process as a mathematical model.
David Mumford is a unique ambassador for mathematics. Not only is his research at the forefront of science, but some of his writings have made mathematics accessible to a wide audience. His book Indra's Pearls, joint with Caroline Series and Dave Wright, is an account of their exploration of a family of symmetrical but infinitely convoluted sets, part of the modern investigation of how chaos evolves from very simple rules, producing intricate complexity on every scale from the very large to the very small. In the authors' words: "Our dream is that this book will reveal to a larger audience that mathematics is not alien, cold and remote but just a very human exploration of the patterns of the world, one which thrives on play and surprise and beauty."