New Zealand Mathematical Society

The New Zealand Mathematical Society

The New Zealand Mathematical Society was founded in May 1974. A role was played by three different organisations, namely the Royal Society of New Zealand, the New Zealand National Committee for Mathematics and the New Zealand Mathematics Colloquium. Let us give some details of each of these three organisations as background to the founding of the Mathematical Society.

The Royal Society of New Zealand began its existence as the New Zealand Institute which was set up by an act of parliament in 1867 for the study of science, art, philosophy and literature. The Institute published Transactions and Proceedings. The name was changed to Royal Society of New Zealand in 1933 with royal assent and an Act of Parliament, and in 1965 the Society became more science oriented, adding Social Sciences and Technology.

The first moves to setting up the New Zealand National Committee for Mathematics came from the International Mathematical Union with a discussion by letter of the possibility of New Zealand joining the International Mathematical Union. The New Zealand mathematicians were told that they could be involved though a committee of the Royal Society of New Zealand to be named the National Committee for Mathematics. This was discussed at the first two New Zealand Mathematics Colloquia in 1966 and 1967 when it was decided to approach the Royal Society of New Zealand to set up the necessary committee. The first meeting of the committee took place in Wellington on 15 December 1967 when Simon Bernau was elected as chairman, and a constitution was agreed.

The first New Zealand Mathematics Colloquium was held at Victoria University in Wellington in May 1966. In July 1967 Bernhard Neumann, at that time at the Australian National University, visited New Zealand making a tour of most university mathematics departments in the country. He was representing the Australian Mathematical Society and was looking to see if there was a way that mathematicians from New Zealand could become involved with the Australian Society. Various possibilities were discussed including creating a New Zealand Division of the Australian Mathematical Society or creating a larger combined joint Australian/New Zealand Mathematical Society. Nothing formal came out of these discussions but over the following years the topic continued to be talked about. We should also note that Bernhard Neumann kept encouraging the New Zealand mathematicians to think about this with frequent correspondence.

C J Seelye, Head of the Mathematics Department at Victoria, wrote to the Royal Society of New Zealand in a letter dated 4 September 1972 passing on a recommendation from a staff meeting [1]:-

That recognising the time might be appropriate for the formation of a New Zealand Mathematics Society this meeting requests the National Committee for Mathematics to submit to the 1973 Mathematics Colloquium General Meeting a detailed proposal for the formation of such a society.
The Royal Society of New Zealand forwarded Seelye's letter to Cecil Segedin, acting chairman of the National Committee for Mathematics, who asked David Vere-Jones to present a detailed proposal to the Committee for a New Zealand Mathematics Society together with a draft constitution [1]:-
The reaction was very mixed, several members of the National Committee for Mathematics being quite strongly opposed to the formation of such a society, largely on the grounds that the Colloquium was working very well and there were dangers in trying to incorporate it into a larger organisation which was unlikely to bring any additional benefits. As it happened, the National Committee for Mathematics meeting held during the May 1973 Colloquium did not muster a quorum, and so the matter was passed on to the Colloquium AGM without any recommendation from the National Committee for Mathematics.
Kevin Broughan takes up the story at this point, with the National Committee for Mathematics report being passed to the Colloquium Business Meeting held at the University of Waikato in 1973. The Business Meeting approved in principle setting up a New Zealand Mathematics Society [2]:-
A working party consisting of David Vere-Jones, Donald Joyce and Kevin Broughan was elected to make a specific proposal which was considered and approved at the next meeting in 1974. There was some opposition from some members of the existing permanent Heads of Mathematics committee, which felt that it might lose influence, but broad support from especially the younger mathematicians and statisticians. I [Kevin Broughan] was charged with writing the first version of the constitution. Bernhard Neumann was a strong supporter of moves to create the Society, which was very helpful, given the alternative being canvassed that it would be better to merge with the Australian society.
The Business Meeting of the 1974 Colloquium, held at the University of Auckland, approved setting up the New Zealand Mathematics Society and the first meeting of the new Society took place at the Colloquium in May 1974. At this first meeting the new Society there was an attempt to make Bernhard Neumann an Honorary Life Member, but they found he had already paid his subscription. He was elected an Honorary Life Member at the first AGM in 1975. At the first meeting in 1974, the new Society did elect two Honorary Life Members, Henry George Forder and Jim Campbell.

The aims of the new Society included:-

... promotion of research in the mathematical sciences, the development, application and dissemination of mathematical knowledge within New Zealand, and effective cooperation and collaboration between mathematicians and their colleagues in New Zealand and in other countries.
The Society had been born at the New Zealand Mathematics Colloquium and it continued to be closely associated with the Colloquium with most of its Annual General Meetings being held at the Colloquium. It set about the task of making reciprocity agreements with other Societies, mostly overseas, and agreements have been made with the American Mathematical Society, the Australian Mathematical Society, the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Society of Japan, the London Mathematical Society and the Southeast Asian Mathematical Society. The Mathematical Society affiliated with Royal Society of New Zealand as a member body. It also began publishing, initially only a Newsletter. The publishing situation was somewhat complicated by the fact that the Mathematical Chronicle had been founded in 1969 by some members of the University of Auckland Department of Mathematics and was already playing a major role in publishing mathematical research papers in New Zealand. We now look at how the publication strategy of the New Zealand Mathematics Society developed.

The New Zealand Mathematics Society published a Newsletter, the first issue appearing in May 1974 with Jim Ansell as editor. It has continued publication since then with three of four issues appearing each year. As well as giving information about activities of the Society, it contains articles, reports, announcements and reviews. Much of the information in this article has come from various articles in the Newsletter. As mentioned above, the Mathematical Chronicle had been published from 1969 onwards but in 1992, the University of Auckland Department of Mathematics and the New Zealand Mathematics Society came to an agreement to jointly publish the New Zealand Mathematical Journal. This was a continuation of the Mathematical Chronicle so there are 20 volumes of the Chronicle and then Volume 21 became the New Zealand Mathematical Journal. The Journal publishes high quality research papers both in pure and applied mathematics as well as the occasional survey article. Although it doesn't restrict the topics it publishes, it does give preference to articles which are on a topic that at least one New Zealand mathematician works on. Since 2007, the New Zealand Journal of Mathematics has been published electronically only and hardcopies are no longer available.

The New Zealand Mathematics Society makes a number of awards and prizes. There is the Research Award, first awarded in 1990, the Early Career Research Award first awarded in 2006, the Kalman Prize for Best Paper first awarded in 2016, and the Aitken Student Prize first awarded in 1995. We now say a little about each award.

The New Zealand Mathematics Society Research Award

The award was instituted to encourage high quality mathematical research in New Zealand. The award is based on the previous five years mathematical publications of the winner either in books or recognised research journals. The judging panel is appointed by the President of the New Zealand Mathematical Society and the award is made annually at the New Zealand Mathematical Colloquium Dinner. For a list of winners and the citations for their award, see THIS LINK.

The New Zealand Mathematics Society Early Career Research Award

The award was instituted to encourage high quality mathematical research by early career mathematicians in New Zealand. To qualify for the award, people must be within seven years of the receipt of their doctorate (although allowance is made for career breaks). Only members of the New Zealand Mathematical Society are eligible and most of their work has to have been carried out in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Mathematics Society Kalman Prize for Best Paper

The prize was instituted to recognise high quality mathematical research carried out by a New Zealand mathematician. It is named for John Kalman and is funded by the Margaret and John Kalman Charitable Trust. The award is made for a single publication, either a book or a research paper, made within five years of the date of the award. John Arnold Kalman (1928-2007) studied for a first degree at Auckland University, then obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard University in the USA. His thesis advisor was George Mackey. He became Head of the Mathematics Department at Auckland University and was the main person responsible for setting up the Mathematical Chronicle, now the New Zealand Mathematical Journal, mentioned above.

The New Zealand Mathematics Society Aitken Student Prize

This prize is given to the student who gives the most outstanding talk at the annual New Zealand Mathematical Colloquium. It is named for the outstanding New Zealand mathematician Alexander Craig Aitken.

Forder Lectures

In his will, Henry George Forder bequeathed to the University of Auckland the residue of his library (which contained some very valuable books) plus a substantial sum of money, with the rest of his estate bequeathed to the London Mathematical Society. The London Mathematical Society and the New Zealand Mathematical Society engaged in prolonged negotiations about the best way to use the Forder Bequest, with the Secretary of the London Mathematical Society going to New Zealand to finalise the agreed arrangement. The agreement was that the London Mathematical Society would use the income from the Forder Bequest to send eminent mathematicians from the United Kingdom to New Zealand as Forder Lecturers, touring the universities of New Zealand. The list of Forder Lecturers is at THIS LINK.

Presidents of the New Zealand Mathematical Society:

1974-1975 David Vere-Jones
1975-1976 John C Butcher
1976-1978 Gordon M Petersen
1978-1979 Graeme C Wake
1979-1980 John C Turner
1980-1981 W Dean Halford
1981-1982 David B Gauld
1982-1983 Jim H Ansell
1983-1984 William Davidson
1984-1985 Michael R Carter
1985-1987 Ivan L Reilly
1987-1989 Brian Woods
1989-1991 Gillian Thornley
1991-1993 Derek Holton
1993-1995 Marston D E Conder
1995-1997 Douglas Bridges
1997-1999 Rob I Goldblatt
1999-2001 Graeme Wake
2001-2003 Rod Downey
2003-2005 Mick Roberts
2005-2007 Gaven Martin
2007-2009 Robert McLachlan
2009-2011 Charles Semple
2011-2013 Graham Weir
2013-2015 Winston Sweatman
2015-2017 Astrid an Huef
2017-2019 Vivien Kirk

List of References (4 books/articles)


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JOC/EFR February 2018 School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland
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