PRESIDENT'S COLUMN

Derek W. Robinson

It is with deep regret that I have to announce the death of Emeritus Professor Larry Blakers on the 6th March 1995. Larry played an important role in the foundation of the Australian Mathematical Society, the Australian Association of Mathematical Teachers and the Mathematical Association of Western Australia. He was also the founder and long term Director of the National Mathematics Summer School for gifted high school students which takes place in Canberra each year.

Returning to Australia in 1952 after an absence of 12 years Larry was aware of the lack of any formal infrastructure linking the mathematics profession. In 1953 he set about establishing personal contact with the other Heads of Mathematics Departments in the universities. This he achieved by driving overland from Perth to pay personal visits to his colleagues in the east. His mission was to obtain agreement on the establishment of a mathematical society and the publication of a mathematical journal. Despite the considerable doubt and hesitation that he encountered these aims were achieved with the Society formally founded on 15 August, 1956 and the Journal appearing for the first time in 1959.

Larry was a Foundation Member of the Council of the Australian Mathematical Society and served on it for many years. He was Vice-President from 1961 to 1963 and 1976 to 1978 then President from 1980 to 1982.

The next item concerns a matter already discussed in my previous columns. Members will recall that a bid was submitted to the International Association of Mathematical Physics to host their 1997 Triennial Conference. At the time I last wrote, the Association was evaluating this bid and a competing one from Shanghai. It is a great pleasure to announce that their decision has now been made in favour of the Australian bid. The Conference is scheduled for the week beginning Sunday July 13th 1997. Professor Tony Bracken will be Chair of the local, i.e., Australian, organizing committee and membership of this committee and the structure of the necessary subcommittees is currently under consideration.

The week preceding the IAMP Conference will be the AVCC common week and it is anticipated that this will be the occasion of the joint meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Mathematical Societies in Auckland. It is to be expected that the two conferences will have some common speakers and that various satellite meetings will be organized. Suggestions have already been received for meetings on statistical mechanics in Melbourne, general relativity in Armidale and field theory in Adelaide. Other suggestions or proposals should be directed to Tony Bracken.

The National Strategy Review has continued apace over the past three months. The Working Party met with the Advisory Committee on the 24th April in Melbourne and presented a first draft of its preliminary recommendations. The Working Party will meet the Chairman of the ARC on the 7th June in Sydney to present a report on its findings. It still aims to complete the report by the end of June.

FASTS, the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, is now back in full swing with a new Executive Treasurer, Marion Burgess of ADFA, a new Executive Director, Toss Gascoigne formerly of CSIRO's Centre for Environmental Mechanics and an inaugural President-Elect, Joe Baker who is currently the ACT Commisioner for the Environment. The organization is in the process of changing from a pure lobbying body, which has been its principal function since its foundation in 1986, to a body which actively develops policies with the involvement of its member societies. Considerable work has been put into the development of a policy document which will be presented to the Minister of Science in June and issued for public comment and discussion.

Currently FASTS represents more than 40 scientific societies some of which are also representative groups. The Australian Mathematical Society is represented through its membership of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Council (AMSC). Members who have followed these affairs will recall that the AMSC is an alphabet soup of AAMT, MELA, MERGA, SSA and the Australian Mathematical Society. It, in turn, is attempting to develop policy on general areas of concern for the mathematical sciences in order to be able to react quickly to such things as changes in governement policy. At the AMSC Council Meeting in Melbourne on the 25th February the AAMT gave notice to disaffiliate from the AMSC from the 1st February 1996 and in principle this places in jeopardy the AMSC membership of the FASTS Board. Negotiations are taking place to retain some representation on the Board.

The Annual General Meeting will take place in Hobart before the next column. I hope that there will be a good attendance as there will be debate on a number of questions concerning the future of the Society's activities.


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