History of Mathematics at Cardiff
Mathematics at Cardiff University dates back to the late 1800s when the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire first opened its doors. Our proud tradition in the subject has grown over the decades, evolving into the thriving community of well-respected academics and high-achieving students we see today.
1883 University founded
The University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire opens. Headed by Principal John Viriamu Jones, a brilliant young physicist aged just 27, overseeing an initial team of 13 academic staff recruited for their excellence, both locally and abroad, including France, Switzerland and India.
Of the 13 founding academic staff, H. W. Lloyd Tanner FRS, an expert in partial differential equations, was appointed aged 32 to Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, a position he occupied at Cardiff for 26 years until his resignation in 1909.
1910 New Professor of Mathematics
Professor R. H. Pinkerton, who has written textbooks in dynamics and hydrostatics as well as on trigonometry, succeeds Prof Lloyd Tanner.
1923 New Professor of Pure and Applied Mathematics
Prof Pinkerton leaves Cardiff. His replacement, G.H. Livens, is appointed Professor of Pure and Applied Mathematics. Prof Liven’s book The Theory of Electricity, is still in print with Cambridge University Press.
The Mathematics Department remains very small with just two or three teaching staff.
1951 Growth of the Mathematics Department
The Mathematics Department begins to expand when Prof Livens is replaced by Professor Lionel Cooper, a recent recipient of the Berwick Prize, awarded in 1949, a year in which his correspondence included two letters from Albert Einstein concerning possible logical inconsistencies in quantum mechanics.
Prof Cooper worked in operator theory, transform theory, thermodynamics, functional analysis and differential equations. From 1952 to 1959 he edited the proceedings of the London Mathematical Society.
1962 A split for Maths
The Mathematics Department splits in two, mirroring the Cambridge dichotomy exactly: Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics under Professor Cooper, and Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Physics under the newly appointed Professor Peter Landsberg.
1964 Chaos for Maths!
Prof Cooper leaves and two “chaotic” years of acting heads of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics follow.
1967 A second split of the department takes place
Professor Christopher Hooley FRS takes over as the Head of the new Department of Pure Mathematics.
The Royal Society tribute to Professor Christopher Hooley FRS quoted: “Hooley’s predecessor in Cardiff, Aubrey Ingleton, had resigned for family reasons after only a year, and it was a difficult time for University College to find a suitable replacement. Hooley’s arrival was greeted with much relief, and naturally with delight. Hooley rapidly created a powerful group of analytic number theorists and added to the existing strengths of analysis and group theory.”
K.W. Kemp takes over as the Head of the new Department of Mathematical Statistics and Operational Research..
1969 Creation of UWIST
The University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST) is created with a single Department of Mathematics, giving the city of Cardiff four mathematics departments.
1972 New Department of Computing Mathematics
Bob Churchhouse is appointed as the head of the new Department of Computing Mathematics, resulting in four departments at University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire and a further one department at UWIST.
1972-73 First female Head
Dr Rosa Morris is Acting Head of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Physics, but this is not recorded in the calendars as Professor Landsberg’s departure was so abrupt. She is believed to be one of the first female Heads of a School of Mathematics in the country.
1973 A new Head
N.C. Wickramasinghe becomes Head of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Physics.
1988 Merger with UWIST
Professor Hooley made Head of the School of Mathematics, which has 30 staff.
Mid-'90s The School of Computer Science
Computing Mathematics remains a separate School and changes its name to Computer Science.
1995 Professor Hooley retires
Professor J.W. Griffiths, Head of Department in UWIST at the time of the merger, takes the reins. Professor Hooley remained a Distinguished Research Professor at Cardiff until 2008.
1995-2006 Head of School shared
Professors J.W. Griffiths and W.D. Evans share the position of Head of School, often alternating on a yearly basis.
2006 New Head of School
Professor Russell Davies, an applied and computational mathematician, takes over. Prof Davies remains in position for eight years as Head of School.
2014-2021 A new Head and the growth of Maths
Professor Tim Phillips, an expert in Fluid Mechanics, is appointed as Head of the School of Mathematics. The School expands rapidly, approaching 50 full-time academic staff in 2021. To accommodate such an expansion Prof Phillips’ tenure encompassed the construction of a new building to house jointly the Schools of Mathematics and Computer Science and Informatics.
2021 A new era for Maths in Abacws
The School of Mathematics moves into the newly purpose-built Abacws building. Shared with the School of Computer Science and Informatics, this world-leading facility pioneers a way of working for Cardiff University which embodies collaboration and shared vision while retaining the distinct identities of the two Schools.
An overview of the key dates in the evolution of Cardiff University are encoded in a riddle written in the style of the epigram of Diophantus (circa the year 200). It was read out on the Radio 4 Today Programme in November 2019.
Can you solve the epigram without looking at the answer?