Mathematical Biology at St Andrews: Historical Connections

Although the current group started in 2015 with the appointment of Professor Mark A.J. Chaplain to the Gregory Chair of Applied Mathematics, Mathematical Biology has a long and distinguished tradition at St Andrews, going back almost a century to Professor Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson.

D’Arcy Thompson was Professor of Natural History at the University of St Andrews from 1917-1948. Previously he had been Professor of Biology at University College, Dundee, since 1884. He was best known as a zoologist and a botanist. However, D’Arcy Thompson was also a respected classicist and a mathematician, and he is now probably best remembered for his seminal work ‘On Growth and Form’, published in 1917. He may be regarded as the grandfather of modern Mathematical Biology and his ideas are still inspiring scientists to this day.

Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, FRS, FRSE
(credit to David Shanks Ewart)

St Andrews has strong historical connections with another giant of modern Mathematical Biology, Professor James D. Murray, who graduated with a B.Sc. 1st Class Honours in Mathematics in 1953, and a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics in 1956. He was also awarded an honorary D.Sc. Honoris causa in 1994. Professor Murray has contributed enormously to the development of modern Mathematical Biology across a broad range of areas such as pattern formation in animal coat marking, spatial spread of rabies epidemics, wound healing and scar formation, territory formation in wolf-deer interacting populations, glioma growth and treatment and predicting divorce.

Prof. James D. Murray, FRS, FRSE
(credit to Thomas Wooley, The Laughing Mathematician)

More recent connections

Prof. Mark A.J. Chaplain in conversation with Prof. James D. Murray
at a colloquium in his honour at ICMS, Edinburgh