Welcome to ICIAM ’07!

October 21, 2007


Zurich, July 16. ICIAM president Ian Sloan (fourth from right) and ICIAM ‘07 congress director Rolf Jeltsch (far right) congratulated the recipients of the five ICIAM Prizes, awarded at the opening ceremony: from left, Heinz Engl (Pioneer Prize), Gilbert Strang (Su Buchin Prize), Felix Otto (Collatz Prize), Peter Deuflhard (Maxwell Prize), Ingrid Daubechies (Pioneer Prize), and Joseph Keller (Lagrange Prize).

ICIAM '07 was the biggest celebration yet of the vibrancy and breadth of industrial and applied mathematics throughout the world. From epidemics to the world's smallest guitar, from deterministic games to virtual astrophysics, from mathematical finance to cloaking via non-uniqueness of solutions, the Zurich Congress was stuffed with good mathematics and good applications.

The sheer scale was impressive: twenty-seven invited talks and a variety of special talks in vast numbers of plenary and parallel sessions over five glorious summer days. One could not hope to touch on the whole of this activity, nor even to summarise it in one publication, so for this special ICIAM issue of SIAM News we have brought together articles covering in some cases a single talk, in others a minisymposium or sequence of minisymposia, hoping thereby to give readers a glimpse of some of the mathematics and applications discussed. We make no apology for the gaps!

Our thanks go to all of the contributors for agreeing to have their arms twisted and for making the effort to present their topics to the SIAM membership. The articles that they have produced describe real (and complex!) mathematics at work: ingenuity in description, skill and cleverness in analysis, and utility in application. Most also describe interesting open research areas, so please read on!---Barbara Keyfitz and Andy Wathen.

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Barbara Keyfitz and Andy Wathen succumbed to some arm twisting themselves, agreeing back at the beginning of the summer to serve as editors-in-chief of a special issue of SIAM News on ICIAM '07. We think that they approached the project with all the ingenuity and skill they (justly) attribute to the contributors. We knew we had found good editors when, midway through the week in Zurich, they thanked us for the encouragement to attend sessions outside their own areas.---Jim Crowley and Gail Corbett.

Rolf Jeltsch, ICIAM ‘07 congress director, welcomed participants to Zurich. Alluding to the densely packed program---more than 2900 lectures and 118 poster presentations scheduled for the week of July 16–20, with, at times, as many as 69 sessions in parallel---he warned that "it will be difficult for you to decide where to go." As the articles in this issue of SIAM News attest, the hard choices frequently led to rewarding experiences. Photos by Christina Buchmann, Daniel Perez, and Andreas Wolfensberger.

With a wealth of Euleriana to convey, Walter Gautschi gave a special lecture, "Leonhard Euler: His Life, the Man, and his Work," on the evening of July 18. Speaking in the year of the 300th anniversary of Euler's birth at a meeting held just a short train ride from Basel, where Euler was born and spent his first twenty years, Gautschi was describing a life and a life's work he knew well. With Erika Gautschi, he is the translator of a biography of Euler by Emil Fell-man, published in German about ten years ago.
Readers who missed the talk are encouraged to read the review of the Gautschis' translation by Philip Davis ("A Tale of Three Cities, Two Academies, and an Opera Omnia in 76 Volumes (and Counting)," which appeared in the May 2007 issue of SIAM News; http://www.siam.org/pdf/news/1122.pdf), and can look forward to the appearance of a paper based on the talk in SIAM Review.

Newly established by CSIAM and awarded for the first time in Zurich, the ICIAM Su Buchin Prize recognizes an outstanding contribution by an individual in the application of mathematics to emerging economies and human development, in particular at the economic and cultural level in developing countries. Gilbert Strang of MIT, the first recipient, is shown here with Li Ta Tsien of CSIAM and ICIAM president Ian Sloan.
Citing the lasting influence of Strang's many visits to China, to other countries in Asia (leading to the creation of the East Asia Section of SIAM), and to developing countries in other parts of the world, CSIAM also credited Strang's books and widely studied Web-based linear algebra course for his success in promoting mathematics worldwide.
With no SIAM annual meeting in 2007, Strang was called to the stage in Zurich to receive another prize, one that couldn't have been awarded in a better setting: the Peter Henrici Prize. Given jointly by SIAM and ETH Zurich, where Henrici taught for many years, the prize recognizes broad and extended contributions to applied mathematics and scientific computing. Beresford Parlett presented the prize, pointing out that Strang was the first of Henrici's 24 PhD students and offering a partial list of the areas to which he has contributed, including Strang–Fix conditions, variational crimes for finite elements, Strang splitting, wavelets, linear algebra, and, most recently, maximum flows and duality. Parlett, too, cited Strang's books and the linear algebra course on the Web (but to be strictly up to date would have mentioned a new book on computational science and engineering, nearing completion in July and in use this fall at MIT). Parlett concluded with a perceptive tribute to his longtime colleague: "Gil's style is very gentle---each suggestion is tossed out as a passing thought, and yet it's right on target."




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