Dr Ian Porteous, mathematician. Born: 9 October, 1930, in Crossgates, Fife. Died: 30 January, 2011, in Liverpool, aged 80.
Ian Porteous was a distinguished mathematician who spent much of his academic life at the University of Liverpool and became a much respected teacher enthusing generations of students into the practical uses of maths. His lectures and talks weredevoid of perplexing terminology and complex formulae; Porteous was never stuffy or aloof and delighted in introducing a lighter and more relaxed approach to even the most involved equation.
For many years Porteous worked with the FunMaths Roadshow, originally designed as a celebration of the centenary, in 1999, of the Liverpool Mathematical Society. He also worked tirelessly on behalf of Mathematical Education on Merseyside which he and a colleague had set up to further the study of maths. The FunMaths Roadshow, which he attended with some relish whenever possible, provided school children with a brief experience of some elements of what practicing mathematicians do in real life, demonstrating how these included problem solving, explorating ideas and finding solutions.
Ian Robertson Porteous was born in Crossgates, Fife, the son of the Rev Professor Norman Porteous and his wife, May. He attended George Watson's, where he was an outstanding pupil, winning prizes every year, including the Neil MacLeod prize for maths and the Hulton prize for modern languages. He read mathematics at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1952, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1960 he wrote his PhD based on algebraic geometry.
Porteous was appointed lecturer at Liverpool University in 1959 and promoted to senior lecturer in 1972. After a year at Columbia University in New York he returned to Liverpool and published the influential Topological Geometry. One senior colleague wrote of the book: "This book is the product of substantial thought and care." There was a second edition published in 1981.
Porteous was widely known as a pioneer of Clifford Algebra, which has important applications in a variety of fields including geometry and theoretical physics. He served with distinction on the International Advisory Board of the triannual International Conferences on Clifford Algebras and their Applications. Porteous's book on the subject (Clifford Algebras and the Classical Groups) was praised by colleagues for its lucidity and scholarship. One reviewer commented: "Porteous's presentation of the subject matter sets a standard by which others may be judged." For many it was the time and energy that Porteous devoted to the Liverpool Mathematical Society that built his reputation outside Liverpool and academia.
is also well known for his work with Mandelbrot sets and we are very [pleased that his BBC Micro ansd software has been donated to The Centre For Computing History by the University of Liverpool.
We also have some of the 5.25" disks and notes of the Mandlbrot sets that Dr Porteus used