15 october 2009

Oxford to welcome new Royal Society Professors

University | Science

Andrew Wiles, Tim Palmer, Carol Robinson
Royal Society Professors [L to R]: Andrew Wiles, Tim Palmer, Carol Robinson

Three of the world’s most influential researchers are coming to Oxford University as Royal Society Professors, it was announced today.

Mathematician Sir Andrew Wiles and physicist Dr Tim Palmer will be joining Oxford as new Royal Society 2010 Anniversary Research Professors, whilst Royal Society Research Professor Carol Robinson is joining Oxford’s Department of Chemistry.

Sir Andrew Wiles specialises in number theory and became famous for proving Fermat’s Last Theorem. The Theorem was first conjectured in 1637 but all attempts to solve it failed until Sir Andrew Wiles published his general proof in 1995 to international acclaim. His achievement was popularised in Simon Singh’s book Fermat’s Last Theorem and BBC Two’s Horizon. He will be moving from Princeton University to take up his new Royal Society Professorship at Oxford’s Mathematical Institute and Merton College in 2011.

Dr Tim Palmer is a world expert on the dynamics and predictability of weather and climate. Amongst his varied research activities, he has pioneered the development of schemes that predict uncertainty in weather and climate forecasts. He will be moving from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts to take up his new Royal Society Professorship at Oxford’s Department of Physics and Jesus College in 2010.

Professor Carol V Robinson is a renowned chemist who has made major advances in the application of mass spectroscopy to the analysis of proteins and other large molecules. She is transferring her Royal Society Research Professorship at Cambridge University to Oxford’s Department of Chemistry where she will be associated with Exeter College and subsequently become the Dr Lee’s Professor of Chemistry.

The future of mathematics in Oxford looks very exciting and it will be fantastic that Andrew Wiles will be a part of the dynamic developments that we are planning.

Professor Marcus du Sautoy

Sir Andrew Wiles, an alumnus of Merton College, Oxford, said: ‘Over the last several years my work has focused primarily on the Langlands Program – a web of very influential conjectures linking number theory, algebraic geometry and the theory of automorphic forms. I am trying to develop arithmetic techniques that will, I hope, help to resolve some of the fundamental questions in this field. I am delighted to be appointed a Royal Society Research Professor in their anniversary year and I look forward to the opportunities this will give me to further my research.'

Dr Tim Palmer said: ’Much important research in climate science evolves around the issue of uncertainty: how to represent it, how to reduce it, and how society can make useful decisions in the light of it. These are central issues for me as I begin my Royal Society Research Professorship at Oxford. Firstly, I want to work on methods to recast the basic formulation of climate models so that uncertainty is represented explicitly in the mathematical structure of these models. Secondly, I want to exploit the potentially close synergy between weather and climate forecasts to try to reduce uncertainty in climate prediction. Oxford is doing important work in climate science across a range of departments, and I am looking forward to working with Oxford scientists in this rich interdisciplinary setting, when I start next year.’

Professor Carol Robinson said: 'I am delighted to have been awarded this prestigious chair. I see this as an exceptional opportunity for my research group to be housed in state of the art laboratories and to be a part of one of the world's premier chemistry departments. Moving my research team here is also enabling us to explore new directions and to establish new scientific collaborations. I am extremely positive about this move and look forward to an exciting research future here at the University of Oxford.'

Professor Marcus du Sautoy of Oxford University’s Mathematical Institute said: ‘The future of mathematics in Oxford looks very exciting and it will be fantastic that Andrew Wiles will be a part of the dynamic developments that we are planning. Ask anyone on the street to name a living mathematician and, if they can, it will probably be Andrew. His solution to Fermat's Last Theorem is one of the mathematical highlights of the last century. What is exciting is that it opened up as many new avenues of research as it answered and the Oxford mathematicians will enjoy joining Andrew in his research to unlock the mysteries of the Langlands programme.’

Professor Peter Read of Oxford University’s Department of Physics said: ‘Dr Tim Palmer is an outstanding and visionary scientist in the strategically critical disciplines of climate prediction and non-linear dynamics. His highly interdisciplinary work in this area over many years is widely known and respected and he has attracted the highest acclaim worldwide in terms of international awards. His appointment is especially timely since the University has recently identified climate change studies, including modelling and prediction, as a key strategic area for growth.’ 

Image of Sir Andrew Wiles: Copyright C. J. Mozzochi, Princeton N.J