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Prof. Rota to deliver Killian Lecture today

Gian-Carlo Rota, professor of applied mathematics and philosophy in the Department of Mathematics, will deliver the 25th annual Killian Award Lecture entitled "Mathematical Snapshots" today (March 5) at 4:30pm in Huntington Hall (Rm 10-250).

Professor Rota was described by the Killian Award Committee as "a leading innovator and theorist in the transformation of combinatorics from a disparate collection of facts and techniques unworthy of serious mathematical consideration into an active, systematic and profound branch of modern pure and applied mathematics" when he was announced as the recipient of the 1996-97 James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award last May.

"Mathematics has been crowned queen of the sciences, but its queenly role has lately been that of living alone in an enchanted castle," Professor Rota says in the abstract for his lecture. "Interaction between mathematicians, scientists and engineers, that only 40 years ago in Norbert Wiener's time throve at MIT and elsewhere, has become infrequent. Mathematicians have seldom felt the need to make their discoveries readily accessible to the scientific community. As a consequence, mathematics has come to be regarded as a remote language spoken by few.

"Mathematics is not merely the language of science. The results of research in mathematics are facts no different from the facts that are discovered in any of the sciences. The facts of mathematics invariably find unforeseen and numerous applications."

Professor Rota will present "a half-dozen little known facts of mathematics. drawn from recent discoveries in geometry, mathematical analysis and combinatorics."

The annual Killian award was established in 1971 as a tribute to the late Dr. Killian, MIT's 10th president and former chairman of the Corporation.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 5, 1997.

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