In conversation with...
Ian Stewart Trupti Patel and Matthew Wright
an airy oﬀice in the Mathematics Institute of the University of Warwick we find Ian Stewart, the prominent maths professor, Fellow of the Royal Society and one of the UK’s most prolific popularisers of mathematics. He has published over 80 books, between 1991 to 2001 took over Martin Gardner’s original Mathematical Games column for the magazine Scientific American, and in 1995 won the Michael Faraday Prize for excellence in communicating science to UK audiences. He greets us with a kind smile, a warm handshake and leads us to his desk. He begins by telling us how he first became involved in writing about maths for a general audience during his undergraduate days at Cambridge, when he edited Eureka, the Archimedean Society’s magazine. He moved on to the University of Warwick to begin his PhD and, on graduating, was awarded a full time position there; at the time the University’s mathematics department had only recently been founded by Christopher Zeeman. During his early years at Warwick, Stewart began producing a magazine called Manifold, which “although not strictly speaking a mathematical magazine, mostly concentrated on topics that had some kind of mathematical connection”. Over the course of its 12-year lifetime, more than 20 issues were printed and sent to university libraries and mathematics departments around the world, with 600 subscribers at the magazine’s peak. Stewart acknowledges that its success was partly due to the open-mindedness and support provided by the department’s senior researchers. It acted as a good advertisement for the newly founded department, managing to aract good researchers to the annual maths symposium held at the university and convincing mathematicians that Warwick was a “friendly place with amusing people”. chalkdustmagazine.com