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A tribute to Peter Swinnerton-Dyer (1927-2018)

Publication Date: 
Tuesday 8th January 2019 - 15:15

The Institute was greatly saddened by the passing of Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, a Senior Fellow of INI for many years, on 26 December 2018 at the age of 91.

Sir Peter (full title "Professor Sir Henry Peter Francis Swinnerton-Dyer, 16th Baronet KBE FRS") will be best remembered for postulating one of the most important conjectures of 20th century mathematics: the Birch Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture. This historically challenging mathematical problem - which describes the set of rational solutions to equations defining an elliptic curve - has proven a rich source of inspiration for researchers since its inception, and directly influenced the work of figures such as Sir Andrew Wiles and his proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. 

Sir Peter's associations with Cambridge ran deep, and included an 11-year tenure as Master of St Catharine's (1973-1984) as well as two years acting as Vice-Chancellor of the University (1979-1981). His connection with INI, however, should not be understated. This association began following Sir Peter's talk on "Arithmetic" at the inaugural meeting at the Institute on 3 July 1992. Three years later, following Peter Goddard stepping down as Deputy Director of the Institute to take up the position of Master of St John’s College, Sir Peter then acted as Executive Director from June 1995 up to September 1996 when Keith Moffatt took up the Directorship. He was subsequently made the first Honorary Fellow of the Institute in 1996. 

Sir Peter's most recent visit to INI came in October 2018, when he attended a celebration of Sir Andrew Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem - a breakthrough for which he could rightly have claimed a measure of credit. 

We would like to extend our condolences and best wishes to his family and friends at this time.

 

(below) Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer (front, centre) at INI in September 1997.
This special meeting ("Diophantine Geometry and Differential Equations") was held to celebrate his 70th birthday.

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