Ian G. Macdonald

Ian G. Macdonald at Oberwolfach in 1977

Ian Grant Macdonald (born 11 October 1928 in London, England) is a British mathematician known for his contributions to symmetric functions, special functions, Lie algebra theory and other aspects of algebraic combinatorics (see also combinatorics).

He was educated at Winchester College and Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1952. He then spent five years as a civil servant. He was offered a position at Manchester University in 1957 by Max Newman, on the basis of work he had done while outside academia. In 1960 he moved to the University of Exeter, and in 1963 became a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. He became Fielden Professor at Manchester in 1972, and professor at Queen Mary College, University of London, in 1976.

He worked on symmetric products of algebraic curves, Jordan algebras and the representation theory of groups over local fields. In 1972 he proved the Macdonald identities, after a pattern known to Freeman Dyson. His 1979 book Symmetric Functions and Hall Polynomials has become a classic. Symmetric functions are an old theory, part of the theory of equations, to which both K-theory and representation theory lead. His was the first text to integrate much classical theory, such as Hall polynomials, Schur functions, the Littlewood–Richardson rule, with the abstract algebra approach. It was both an expository work and, in part, a research monograph, and had a major impact in the field. The Macdonald polynomials are now named after him. The Macdonald conjectures from 1982 also proved most influential.

Macdonald was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1979. In 1991 he received the Pólya Prize of the London Mathematical Society.[1] He was awarded the 2009 Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition. In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[2]

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Preceded by
Frank Adams
Fielden Chair of Pure Mathematics Succeeded by
Norman Blackburn
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