In AMSI in the news

Obituary written by Jan Thomas, originally appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald

GARTH GAUDRY, 1941-2012

One of the highlights of Garth Gaudry’s life in mathematics was a special student named Terry Tao. Tao came to him at the age of 12 and, with Gaudry’s guidance, entered Princeton University at the age of 17. In 2006 Tao was awarded the Fields Medal, considered the Nobel prize of mathematics, a moment of great delight for Gaudry.

Garth Ian Gaudry was born on May 16, 1941, the son of a Queensland primary teacher. He went to Mackay High School then took a degree in mathematics at the University of Queensland and a PhD at the Australian National University. His PhD supervisor was Robert Edwards and together they later wrote Littlewood-Paley and Multiplier Theory, an influential book on harmonic analysis.

The PhD was followed by post-doctoral studies in Paris and England, and time at Yale University as a Gibbs Instructor, a prestigious appointment for young academics. In 1965 he married Patricia Coe.

In 1971 Gaudry returned to ANU and in 1972 was appointed professor of mathematics at the newly established Flinders University. He led the Flinders mathematics department until 1992. Gaudry was fluent in French and Italian, and he and Sandro Figa Talamanca established many years of collaboration between the mathematicians of Italy and Australia.

In 1993 Gaudry moved to the University of NSW, where he became head of school. His research interests at this time were aligned with Swedish mathematicians and in 1994 the University of Gothenburg awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Gaudry’s involvement with raising the public profile of mathematics and mathematics education began at Flinders. He appreciated his excellent teachers in rural Queensland and became a leader among a group of Australian mathematicians who viewed with dismay the lack of opportunity today for an excellent mathematics education, especially in remote and lower socio-economic schools.

From 1986 to 1990 he was vice-president, then president, of the Australian Mathematical Society (AustMS) and took a leading role in the creation of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Council (AMSC), an umbrella group for mathematical sciences on the board of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS). He was AMSC’s first president and with the late David Widdup, the FASTS executive director, achieved considerable prominence for mathematical sciences in media and political circles.

This commitment to the broader mathematical community continued when he moved to the University of NSW, especially in regard to school education. In 1995 Gaudry, as a member of a panel asked to review the implementation of national statements and profiles in NSW, particularly enjoyed meeting teachers across NSW.

In 2002 a message went to all heads of mathematics and statistics departments in the universities that there was funding available through a Victorian government initiative to establish a mathematical sciences institute at the University of Melbourne. Gaudry immediately saw the benefit to the broader mathematical community and committed the university to full membership. Others followed, the funding proposal was successful, and the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) came into being.

In 2003 AMSI was awarded a major grant to establish an international centre of excellence for Education in Mathematics (ICE-EM). Gaudry chose to relinquish the AMSI director position to become the ICE-EM director.

The grant also led to major initiatives in school education. At one meeting a teacher said that the textbooks they had were ”awful” and so eventuated ICE-EM schools mathematics materials, consisting of books and support materials. Gaudry worked tirelessly on this project until ill health forced his retirement in 2008.

In June this year Gaudry was presented with an AMSI Distinguished Service medal. He was an honorary member of the AustMS.

Gaudry had many interests outside mathematics, including music, theatre, wine and windsurfing. In later years he became involved in outback travel, birds and photography. He took a keen interest in the work of Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

Garth Gaudry is survived by Patricia and their children Kerry, Rebecca and Peter.



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