Find out how algebra has changed the world on 6 September

Posted by mjs76 at Aug 26, 2011 05:35 PM |
Top mathematician present public lecture as part of major European maths conference.
Find out how algebra has changed the world on 6 September

Professor Nicholas J Higham

Next week Leicester becomes the first British city to host the prestigious biennial ENUMATH conference, as part of which Professor Nicholas Higham will present a public lecture on the history of algebra.

The first ENUMATH (European Numerical Mathematics and Advanced Applications) conference was held in Heidelberg, Germany in 1997, conceived as “a forum for discussion of basic aspects and new trends in numerical mathematics and challenging scientific and industrial applications on the highest level of international expertise.” Since then the event has been hosted by institutions in Finland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Spain, Austria and Sweden. In 2011, ENUMATH comes to Leicester, hosted by our Department of Mathematics.

The five-day conference runs all week from Monday 5 September. On Tuesday evening, Professor Nicholas J Higham FRS, Richardson Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Manchester, will present a lecture to delegates which is also open to the public. In his talk, ‘Numerical Linear Algebra in the UK: from Cayley to Exascale Computing’ Professor Higham will describe how linear algebra (solving large systems of equations) has developed to meet the needs of the modern world, and how the UK has contributed in a major way to these developments

Arthur Cayley (image: Wikipedia)

Arthur Cayley (1821-1895) was a British mathematician who showed an early flair for maths and went up to Cambridge - where he was a regular contributor to the Mathematical Journal and won the inaugural Smith’s Prize – before commencing a career in law. (If the name seems familiar to non-mathematicians, you may be thinking of aviation pioneer Sir George Cayley, who was a distant relative.) In 1863, Cayley was appointed the first Sadleirian Chair in Mathematics.

Although he subsequently wrote many important papers, his only book was An Elementary Treatise on Elliptic Functions (1876). He is remembered today in such mathematical tools as the Cayley-Klein metric, the Cayley-Dickson construction, Cayley diagrams, Cayley tables and Cayley surfaces.

In linear algebra he was responsible (with Irish physicist/astronomer Sir William Hamilton) for the Cayley-Hamilton theorem which states that “every square matrix over a commutative ring satisfies its own characteristic equation.” Cayley asserted this in 1858 although he only proved it for 3x3 matrices. Hamilton had identified the same concept five years earlier but he didn’t publish a general proof either (that was left to the German mathematician Georg Frobenius in 1878).

At the other end of Professor Higham’s subtitle, exascale computing is a currently hypothetical level of calculations. Current supercomputers work at a petascale level or one thousand million million floating point operations per second. Exascale computing – which ComputerWorld magazine has predicted to be available by 2018 – will be one thousand times faster again.

Professor Higham’s lecture, which is free and open to all, will be held in the Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, Fielding Johnson Building South Wing, at 6.00pm on Tuesday 6 September 2011. The lecture is sponsored by Associated Architects.

For more information contact or 0116 252 3917.