CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

October 24, 2002 McKay wins prestigious math prize



Congratulations to Professor John McKay, FRSC. The distinguished mathematician, who teaches in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, is a joint winner of the CRM-Fields Prize for Mathematics for 2002-2003.

The prize, awarded annually by the Centre de Recherches Mathématiques in Montreal and the Fields Institute in Toronto, recognizes exceptional contributions by a mathematician working in Canada, and unusually this year, awarded a joint prize. The other recipient is Edwin Perkins, FRSC, of the University of British Columbia. Both will talk on their work at the institutes next fall.

Professor McKay’s research revolves around the properties of finite groups, their representations and their symmetries. The citation by the CRM-Fields committee continues:
“He has been at the origin of several of the most startling discoveries in mathematics of our time, and is world-renowned for launching two areas of mathematics by his observations and conjectures, one known as the McKay correspondence, and the other going under the fanciful name of monstrous moonshine, underlying the role of the largest sporadic simple group which is known as the monster.

“His wide knowledge of mathematics has allowed him to bring to the fore questions which have been deeply influential in the subsequent development of the discipline, for example, the work of Richard Borcherds, which was recognized by a Fields medal at the 1998 International Congress of Mathematicians.

“Professor McKay, amongst other achievements, is a pioneer in the use of computers as a tool in algebra, either in the study of sporadic groups (he is the co-discoverer of two such groups) or in the explicit computation of Galois groups. He was also [a contributor to] one of the feats of computational algebra of our time, the proof of the non-existence of a projective plane of order 10.”

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Manchester, McKay obtained a doctorate in computer science in Edinburgh. He held appointments at the Atlas laboratory in England, at Caltech and at McGill University before moving to Concordia in 1974.