New Zealand Mathematical Society

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Foundation of the Society

The Society was founded in 1974.

Memories from Kevin Broughan

“The idea for a society was first raised at the Colloquium Business Meeting in 1973 held at the University of Waikato. A working party consisting of David Vere-Jones, Donald Joyce and Kevin Broughan was elected to make a specific proposal which was considered and approved at the next meeting in 1974. There was some opposition from some members of the existing permanent Heads of Mathematics committee, which felt that it might lose influence, but broad support from especially the younger mathematicians and statisticians. I was charged with writing the first version of the constitution. Bernard Neumann was a strong supporter of moves to create the Society, which was very helpful, given the alternative being canvased that it would be better to merge with the Australian society.

“In the early years of the Council there was a great deal of activity establishing some of our long term arrangements. These included reciprocity agreements with the Australian and American societies, the Visiting Lecturer scheme, relations with the New Zealand Journal of Mathematics, and becoming a member body of the Royal Society of NZ so that, for example, mathematicians and statisticians could become Fellows. Several face to face meetings of the Council were held each year, including a full day meeting the day before each Colloquium.”

National Committee for Mathematics and the NZMS

(Extract from Mike Carter’s feature article on the NCM; see Newsletter 88 

Things livened up when the RSNZ received and forwarded to the NCM a letter from Professor C J Seelye, Head of the Mathematics Department at Victoria, conveying this recommendation from a meeting of staff of the Department: “That recognising the time might be appropriate for the formation of a New Zealand Mathematics Society this meeting requests the National Committee for Mathematics to submit to the 1973 Mathematics Colloquium General Meeting a detailed proposal for the formation of such a society” (C J Seelye to RSNZ, 4 September 1972.)

At the request of Cecil Segedin, who was then acting chairman of the NCM (for health reasons Professor Segedin did not in the end accept nomination as chairman and Gordon Petersen was appointed instead.), David Vere-Jones presented the NCM with a very detailed proposal including a draft constitution for a New Zealand Mathematical Society. The reaction was very mixed, several members of the NCM being quite strongly opposed to the formation of such a society, largely on the grounds that the Colloquium was working very well and there were dangers in trying to incorporate it into a larger organisation which was unlikely to bring any additional benefits.

As it happened, the NCM meeting held during the May 1973 Colloquium did not muster a quorum, and so the matter was passed on to the Colloquium AGM without any recommendation from the NCM. That meeting, as we all know, voted to support the formation of a New Zealand Mathematical Society, which held its inaugural meeting the following year.

Contribution from Garry Tee

In 1966, the first New Zealand Mathematics Colloquium was held at Victoria University of Wellington. A New Zealand Mathematics Colloquium has been held each year since then, except for the years of the Second and Third Australasian Mathematics Conventions (1981 and1985) and of the Australian Bicentennial National Mathematical Sciences Congress (1988). (The 1978 New Zealand Mathematics Colloquium formed part of the First Australasian Mathematics Convention, at the University of Canterbury.)

The Colloquia have been very useful, in enabling mathematicians in New Zealand annually to meet other mathematicians, some from overseas but mostly from within New Zealand.

From 1969 onwards, there was much discussion about the formation of a mathematical society in New Zealand, with Bernhard Neumann (ANU) corresponding extensively about the proposal. At the 1973 Colloquium (at the University of Waikato), the Business Meeting approved in principle the formation of a New Zealand Mathematical Society, and appointed a drafting committee to draft proposals for such a society. That committee produced bulky documentation, which it presented at the Business Meeting of the 1974 Colloquium, at the University of Auckland. After vigorous discussion, the Colloquium delegates decided to follow that Business Meeting by a meeting to found the New Zealand Mathematical Society.


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