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Honours for a lifetime pursuit of mathematics

Distinguished Professor Marston Conder of the University of Auckland has been awarded the Jones Medal from the Royal Society Te Apārangi to recognise his lifetime achievement in in mathematics.

The medal selection panel noted that over the last 30 years, Professor Conder’s leadership and service in the New Zealand mathematical sciences community have been exemplary.

An internationally-renowned mathematician, Professor Conder has spent his career exploring group theory and its applications. He is considered a world authority on discrete objects with maximum possible symmetry in their class. He is also renowned for pioneering the application of an array of algebraic, combinatorial and computational techniques to find answers to open questions in a wide range of fields.

For the last three years, Professor Conder has solved problems and answered open questions in mathematics which previously remained unresolved for nearly six decades.

Over his career he has witnessed dramatic changes in mathematics, and particularly the increasing importance of discrete maths.

“Fifty years ago many people regarded the role of maths as a tool-kit for physics. Now, the subject and its application have broadened immensely. Mathematics plays an important role in bioinformatics, communications, economics and finance, and internet searches.

“Mathematics underpins an incredible range of things, from the speed of Google searches to the fares we pay for airline flights. Amazingly, some of this mathematics was developed over 100 years ago, without any thought about its future applications. Who knows what will be important in 25 years from now.”

Whatever the future holds, Professor Conder sees a main benefit of mathematical pursuit as “developing the ability to think clearly and logically about complex issues, and be adaptable as the nature of these issues shift over time”.

He says he is delighted to receive this recognition from the Royal Society Te Apārangi, especially for simply doing something which is driven by his own curiosity and delivers so much satisfaction.


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