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Mathematics at TCD 1592-1992

years of
by T. D. Spearman


The period from the mid 1960s until about 1980 was one of significant expansion for mathematics in Trinity. During that time the numbers graduating each year with an honor degree in mathematics or theoretical physics has grown from about 5 to about 30. This does not include the two-subject moderators, who combine mathematics with another subject, nor does it take account of the large number of students (almost 1000) in science, engineering, computer science, and pharmacy, who take courses in mathematics. The combined number of staff grew from 6 to 17. In 1988 the two separate departments, pure and applied, were amalgamated, and the School of Mathematics now consists of a single department of pure and applied mathematics within which the two chairs, of mathematics and of natural philosophy, symbolise the two major component disciplines and traditions on which it is built. The department has close associations with the departments of physics, statistics, and computer science, with the School of Engineering and also, through the two-subject moderatorship programme, with the economics and philosophy departments. Students taking the mathematics moderatorship today can choose from a wide range of options in pure and applied mathematics, in statistics, numerical analysis, and computing. They have the opportunity to spend a year of their course in one of several other European universities with which the department has negotiated joint arrangements under the Erasmus scheme, and in turn Erasmus students from Europe, as well as other one-year students from the United States, come here to study mathematics. Within living memory the school of Mathematics has been located in No. 39, a handsome house of cut granite, build in about 1840, facing onto the New Square. In 1930 A.J. McConnell persuaded M.W.J. Fry, also a mathematical Fellow but who was then the Senior Lecturer, to lend one of the rooms of his fine residential set for mathematics lectures. From that initial toe-hold mathematics expanded until it eventually occupied the whole house. Samuel Beckett lived in No. 39 as an undergraduate and refers to the house in his first novel Dream of Fair to Middling Women. In August 1991, when Mathematics moved to 17/18 Westland Row, no. 39 became the home of the school of Law.
The present research activities of the School cover a broad spectrum. Analysis is an area of some strength; so also, in keeping with a long tradition, is geometry, which is again closely associated with current research within the department in areas of theoretical physics such as gauge field theory and string theory, as well as relativity and cosmology. Work is being done on various aspects of theoretical computing and the Department has an established reputation in numerical analysis. Classical applied mathematics and inverse problems are other areas of active research interest. The mathematics department has its own research library with over nine thousand books and a current subscription to over one hundred journals. This is the leading mathematical library in Ireland, and complements the mathematical collections in the main College library. In August 1991 the School of Mathematics moved into houses 17 and 18 Westland Row, on the Eastern perimeter of the College. These houses, which were completely rebuilt internally for the use of mathematics, are linked, through an atrium, to the new William Rowan Hamilton Building, which will contain the main College science library, and lecture theatres. As is fitting, mathematics will have its own lecture rooms within the Hamilton Building where that distinguished tradition of mathematics teaching, to which Hamilton himself contributed, will be maintained.

The end of Mathematics at TCD 1592-1992

Copyright, T. D. Spearman, 1992
(text content reproduced here with
the permission of the author)

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