Sir Christopher Zeeman, FRS, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Saturday 13th February 2016 at home in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, aged 91. Sir Christopher was the Founding Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick. He later served as President of the London Mathematical Society (LMS) from 1986 to 1988 and as Principal of Hertford College, Oxford. He is survived by his wife, Lady Rosemary Zeeman and his six children.
Sir Christopher (born 4th February 1925) was elected to membership of the Society on 21st January 1954. He was LMS Vice-President from 1968-1969 and became the Society’s 63rd President. He was awarded the Senior Whitehead Prize of the Society in 1982, and was the Society’s first Forder lecturer, in 1987. Sir Christopher also presented the LMS Popular Lecture – The Discovery of Perspective in the Renaissance – in 1983
Sir Christopher’s contributions to mathematics range from geometric topology to dynamical systems, with applications across the sciences. He is known among the wider scientific public for his contribution to, and spreading awareness of Catastrophe Theory, and for the 1978 televised Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution (the first in Mathematics), from which grew the Mathematics Masterclasses for primary and secondary school children that now flourish around the United Kingdom.
Sir Christopher was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1975, and was awarded the Royal Society Faraday Medal in 1988. In 2006, the London Mathematical Society and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications jointly awarded the David Crighton Medal to Sir Christopher in recognition of his long and distinguished service to mathematics and the mathematical community.
In 2008 Sir Christopher presented the first Christopher Zeeman Medal for Communication of Mathematics, named in Sir Christopher’s honour and jointly awarded by the London Mathematical Society and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. The award aims to honour mathematicians who have excelled in promoting mathematics and engaging with the general public.
A private funeral will be held for the family. A service to celebrate Sir Christopher’s life will be announced in due course, and there will also be an opportunity to donate to a fund to support young mathematicians, being set up in Sir Christopher’s name, under the auspices of the London Mathematical Society.
A full obituary will appear in a forthcoming issue of the LMS Newsletter.