Timothy Gowers

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Template:EngvarB {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Use dmy dates |date=__DATE__ |$B= }} Template:Infobox scientist Sir William Timothy Gowers, FRS (Template:IPAc-en; born 20 November 1963) is a British mathematician. He is a Royal Society Research Professor at the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics at the University of Cambridge, where he also holds the Rouse Ball chair, and is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1998 he received the Fields Medal for research connecting the fields of functional analysis and combinatorics.[1][2][3][4]

Academic positions

After his PhD, Gowers was elected to a Junior Research Fellowship at Trinity College. From 1991 until his return to Cambridge in 1995 he was a lecturer at University College London. He was elected to the Rouse Ball Professorship at Cambridge in 1998. For the academic years 2000-1 and 2001-2 he was a visiting professor at Princeton University.


Gowers attended King's College School, Cambridge, as a choirboy in the King's College choir, and then Eton College[5] as a King's Scholar. He completed his PhD, with a dissertation entitled Symmetric Structures in Banach Spaces,[6] at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1990, supervised by Béla Bollobás.[1]

Academic work

Gowers initially worked on Banach Spaces. He used combinatorial tools in proving several of Stefan Banach's conjectures in the subject, in particular constructing a Banach space with almost no symmetry, serving as a counterexample to several other conjectures.[7] With Bernard Maurey he resolved the "unconditional basic sequence problem" in 1992, showing that not every infinite-dimensional Banach space has an infinite-dimensional subspace that admits an unconditional Schauder basis.

After this, Gowers turned to combinatorics and combinatorial number theory. In 1997 he proved[8] that the Szemerédi regularity lemma necessarily comes with tower-type bounds.

In 1998 he proved[9] the first effective bounds for Szemerédi's theorem, showing that any subset free of k-term arithmetic progressions has cardinality for an appropriate . One of the ingredients in Gowers's argument is a tool now known as the Balog-Szemerédi-Gowers theorem, which has found many further applications. He also introduced the Gowers norms, a tool in arithmetic combinatorics, and provided the basic techniques for analysing them. This work was further developed by Ben Green and Terence Tao, leading to the Green-Tao Theorem.

In 2003, Gowers established a regularity lemma for hypergraphs,[10] analogous to the Szemerédi regularity lemma for graphs.

In 2005, he introduced[11] the notion of a quasirandom group.

More recently Gowers has worked on Ramsey theory in random graphs and random sets with David Conlon, and has turned his attention[12] to other problems such as the P versus NP problem. He has also developed an interest, in joint work with Mohan Ganesalingam,[13] in automated problem solving.


In 1996 he received the Prize of the European Mathematical Society, and in 1998 the Fields Medal for research on functional analysis and combinatorics. In 1999 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 2012 was knighted by the British monarch for services to mathematics[14][15] He also sits on the selection committee for the Mathematics award, given under the auspices of the Shaw Prize.

Popularization Work

Gowers has written several works popularising mathematics, including Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction (2002),[16] which describes modern mathematical research for the general reader. He was consulted about the 2005 film Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. Recently, he has edited The Princeton Companion to Mathematics (2008), which traces the development of various branches and concepts of modern mathematics. For his work on this book, he won the 2011 Euler Book Prize of the Mathematical Association of America.[17]


{{#invoke:main|main}} After asking on his blog whether "massively collaborative mathematics" was possible,[18] he solicited comments on his blog from people who wanted to try to solve mathematical problems collaboratively.[19] The first problem in what is called the Polymath Project, Polymath1, was to find a new combinatorial proof to the density version of the Hales–Jewett theorem. After 7 weeks, Gowers wrote on his blog that the problem was "probably solved".[20]

In 2009, with Olof Sisask and Alex Frolkin, he invited people to post comments to his blog to contribute to a collection of methods of mathematical problem solving[21] Contributors to this Wikipedia-style project, called Tricki.org, include Terence Tao and Ben Green.[22]

Elsevier boycott

{{#invoke:main|main}} In 2012, Gowers posted to his blog to call for a boycott of the publishing house Elsevier.[23][24] A petition ensued, branded the Cost of Knowledge project, in which researchers commit to stop supporting Elsevier journals. Commenting on the petition in The Guardian, Alok Jha credited Gowers with starting an Academic Spring.[25][26][27]

Family relations and personal life

His father was Patrick Gowers, a composer, and his great-grandfather was Sir Ernest Gowers, a British civil servant who was best known for guides to English usage and who was the son of Sir William Gowers, a neurologist. He has five children[28] and plays jazz piano.[5]

In November 2012 he opted to undergo catheter ablation to treat a sporadic atrial fibrillation, after performing a mathematical risk-benefit analysis to decide whether to have the treatment.[29]

Selected research articles

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Popular mathematics books

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Timothy Gowers at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
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  7. 1998 Fields Medalist William Timothy Gowers from the American Mathematical Society
  8. W.T. Gowers, A lower bound of tower type for Szemeredi's uniformity lemma, GAFA 7 (1997), 322-337
  9. W.T.Gowers, A new proof of Szemeredi’s theorem, GAFA 11 (2001), 465–588
  10. W.T.Gowers, Hypergraph regularity and the multidimensional Szemeredi theorem, Annals of Mathematics, 166 (2007), 897–946
  11. http://arxiv.org/abs/0710.3877
  12. http://gowers.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/what-i-did-in-my-summer-holidays/
  13. http://arxiv.org/abs/1309.4501
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  17. January 2011 Prizes and Awards, American Mathematical Society, retrieved 1 February 2011.
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  28. Template:Cite web
  29. Mathematics meets real life, by Tim Gowers, 5 November 2012.

External links

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