Sculpture honours university professor

Dr Gillian Boughton and County Durham based artist, Peter Sales unveil the Sculpture at Durham University hounouring the work of the world renowned Durham Maths professor Tom Willmore.
Dr Gillian Boughton and County Durham based artist, Peter Sales unveil the Sculpture at Durham University hounouring the work of the world renowned Durham Maths professor Tom Willmore.
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IT might look like a simple sculpture but this piece of artwork has a much more complex meaning.

Former Durham University mathematician Professor Tom Willmore, the mastermind behind complex maths theories that are studied across the globe, has been honoured with the unveiling of the sculpture.

Professor Willmore, former head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Dean of Sciences at the university, is internationally renowned for his work in the field of geometry.

As a result of his work, the Willmore Surfaces and Willmore Conjecture have become well-known mathematical concepts.

Professor Willmore started lecturing at the university in 1946 and died in 2005, aged 85.

A postgraduate scholarship fund was set up in his name.

His widow, Dr Gillian Boughton, students and maths professor Franz Pedit unveiled the sculpture of a Willmore Surface outside the Calman Learning Centre at Durham University.

The granite sculpture, designed by County Durham-based artist Peter Sales and produced by North East Granite, depicts a four-lobed Willmore torus – a symmetric Willmore Surface.

A portrait of Professor Willmore, which was commissioned in the late 90s and was believed to have been lost until Dr Boughton stumbled across it, has been put on display inside the Calman Learning Centre.

Dr Boughton, vice-principal of St Mary’s College, Durham University, said: “Tom was a remarkable man and I am extremely proud that his work is still studied across the world while the scholarship fund set up in his name is helping to develop the mathematicians of the future.

“Tom had a gift for engaging people in mathematics and this remarkable sculpture is a fitting tribute.

“I am also deeply happy to loan Tom’s portrait which is a wonderful reminder of his contribution to the history of Durham University.”

The Willmore torus sculpture is part of a series of public artworks planned as part of a revamp of the university’s science site and development of the new Palatine Centre, Law School and Library extension on Stockton Road.

Professor Paul Mansfield, head of the department of Mathematical Sciences, said: “Tom Willmore’s work demonstrates both the underlying unity of mathematics and the fact that deep mathematical insights are often inspired by nature.

“The surfaces named after him arise from a problem in elasticity and yet they have applications in such diverse fields as Einstein’s theory of general relativity and cell biology.

“Studying them led Tom to an important conjecture in geometry which continues to inspire.”

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