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Sir Martin Taylor FRS, Warden of Merton College, Oxford

The Warden: Sir Martin Taylor FRS

I was hugely honoured to be chosen as the Warden of Merton College in the spring of 2010. Before coming to Merton it was clear that one of my major responsibilities would be to lead the College into the 750th anniversary of its foundation—which we are currently celebrating. It was only at my installation, in September 2010, that it was explained to me I was to be the 50th Warden of Merton College.  Truly a weight of big and important numbers!

I had not previously been a Mertonian before becoming the Warden, and it has been a pleasure and a joy to get to know the College. I believe firmly in the concept of the 'Merton Family'; that is to say, that Merton is a community of Fellows, students, staff and alumni, where everybody’s contribution is valued.

Vision

My vision for the College is founded on 750 years of quite extraordinary scholarship. This is very aptly described in our 750th Campaign as "Sustaining Excellence".

Merton is an extremely happy College which welcomes the very best—absolutely regardless of background; I am therefore a very keen supporter of the College’s excellent work in access.

I would like the College to be a very encouraging environment where all members lead fulfilled and happy lives and can reach their full potential. This is neatly expressed in our 1264 Statutes where we are enjoined to preserve "unity, mutual charity, peace, concord and love". This is as true today as it was then, 750 years ago.

Academic career

I was an undergraduate student at Pembroke College, Oxford, and studied for my PhD under Professor Albrecht Fröhlich FRS, at King’s College London. In quick succession I was a Junior Lecturer in Mathematics at Oxford, a Lecturer at Queen Mary College, London, and a teaching Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. Then, at the age of 33, I was appointed as the Professor of Pure Mathematics at UMIST (Manchester)—which later amalgamated with Manchester University—and I stayed in Manchester until I was elected Warden of Merton.

Research

From the time of my PhD, my research has been driven by the fascination of algebraic structures in the number system. In 1981, while working for the CNRS in Besançon, I proved the Fröhlich Conjecture which very surprisingly relates the algebraic structure of certain arithmetic systems to analytic invariants. This was described in my Whitehead Prize citation as "one of the deepest and most beautiful theorems in algebraic number theory found in recent years". My main direction of research now is higher dimensional counterparts of this earlier work.

In the intervening years, I had Visiting Posts in Besançon, Illinois and had numerous visiting posts at the University of Bordeaux over the past forty years. In 1998 I was nominated as the President of the London Mathematical Society, a post which ran for the two years 1999 and 2000. During this time I worked especially hard for mathematical education, helping lay the foundations for the Advisory Council on Mathematics Education.

Royal Society

Having been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1996, in 2004 I was elected as the Society’s Physical Secretary and Vice-President; here I especially enjoyed working with the science community to work together for science education and in particular for the foundation of SCORE, which is a partnership of the Association for Science Education, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Society of Biology. In 2009 I was knighted for my services to science.

The Universities of Leicester, Bordeaux and UEA, have all awarded me Honorary Degrees and I have an Honorary Fellowship from my alma mater, Pembroke College.

Sir Martin Taylor
19 May 2014

 
Photo: © John Cairns