Mathematics Distinguished Professor Gaven Martin is the first academic from a New Zealand university to be invited to deliver the annual Taft Lectures at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio next month.
He will join a long list of eminent mathematicians to present the public lectures since 1931. The Charles Taft Memorial Fund sponsors a programme of public lectures, including one or more in mathematics. The lectures feature prominent mathematicians speaking on recent important developments in their field. Each lecturer usually gives two lectures on consecutive days – the first aimed at a fairly general audience, while the second tends to include more specialised material. Mr Taft was a newspaper publisher, congressman and half-brother of United States President Howard Taft (1909-13).
Professor Martin, based at Massey’s Institute for Advanced Study at the Albany campus, will discuss breakthrough results from his recent research, including work on conformal geometry and materials science. In his first lecture on October 20, he will address a general mathematically literate audience. The next day he will speak to a specialised audience, and will give further talks to researchers at the university.
“I’ll talk about hyperbolic geometry to the general audience based on a public lecture I gave last year, and about some of my recent research on conformal geometry and materials science to the specialised group,” he says. He describes hyperbolic geometry as “weird and interesting" and offering new possibilities to explain many features of the universe, while materials science involves studying the differential equations that describe how materials are deformed when stressed.
Professor Martin, who was awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Hector Medal last year, is a strong advocate of the study of pure mathematics. He says mathematicians are developing tools and structures to find answers to puzzling questions that underpin our understanding of how the physical world works.
“Such models have been crucial to the development of pretty much all of modern technology – cellphones, lasers, computers and medical imaging devices are obvious examples. The Taft Lectures will give me the opportunity to talk about some of the recent work I’ve been doing with several of my PhD students."
The only other New Zealander to have delivered a Taft lecture is Sir Vaughan Jones, from the University of California, Berkeley.
Professor Martin will also give guest lectures at Wesleyan University in Middleton, Connecticut, and at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he previously worked.