Thomas Willmore

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Tom Willmore

Tom Willmore.jpg

Willmore in 1979 at the Mathematical Research Institute of Oberwolfach, photo by Prof. Konrad Jacobs.
Born(1919-04-16)16 April 1919
Gillingham, England
Died 20 February 2005(2005-02-20) (aged 85)
Residence Flag of the United Kingdom.svg England
Nationality Flag of the United Kingdom.svg British
Alma mater King's College London
Known for Willmore energy, Willmore flow, Willmore conjecture
Scientific career
Fields Mathematician
Institutions King's College London, University of Durham, University of Liverpool
Note: PhD written/gained during WWII, advisor unknown

Thomas James Willmore (16 April 1919 – 20 February 2005) was an English geometer. He is best known for his work on Riemannian 3-space and harmonic spaces.

English people Nation and ethnic group native to England

The English people are a nation and an ethnic group native to England who speak the English language. The English identity is of early medieval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Angelcynn. Their ethnonym is derived from the Angles, one of the Germanic peoples who migrated to Great Britain around the 5th century AD. England is one of the countries of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living there are British citizens.

Riemannian geometry branch of differential geometry

Riemannian geometry is the branch of differential geometry that studies Riemannian manifolds, smooth manifolds with a Riemannian metric, i.e. with an inner product on the tangent space at each point that varies smoothly from point to point. This gives, in particular, local notions of angle, length of curves, surface area and volume. From those, some other global quantities can be derived by integrating local contributions.


Willmore studied at King's College London. After his graduation in 1939, he was appointed as a lecturer, but the onset of World War II led him to working as a scientific officer at RAF Cardington, working mainly on barrage balloon defences. During the war, he found the time to write his Ph.D. on relativistic cosmology, and gained his Ph.D. on Clock regraduations and general relativity as an external student of the University of London in 1943 .

"Willmore Surface" sculpture at Durham University in memory of Willmore Willmore Surface sculpture Durham.jpg
"Willmore Surface" sculpture at Durham University in memory of Willmore

In 1946, he was given a lectureship at the University of Durham. He wrote an influential book with Arthur Geoffrey Walker and HS Ruse entitled Harmonic Spaces in 1953. He left Durham in 1954 for the University of Liverpool to join Walker, after a supposed dispute between Willmore and a Durham colleague who refused to order German textbooks after being wounded in World War I.

Durham University collegiate public research university in Durham, England, United Kingdom

Durham University is a collegiate public research university in Durham, North East England, founded by an Act of Parliament in 1832 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1837. It was one of the first universities to commence tuition in England for more than 600 years, after Oxford and Cambridge, and is one of the institutions to be described as the third-oldest university in England. As a collegiate university its main functions are divided between the academic departments of the university and its 16 colleges. In general, the departments perform research and provide teaching to students, while the colleges are responsible for their domestic arrangements and welfare.

Arthur Geoffrey Walker was a leading mathematician who made important contributions to physics and physical cosmology. Although he was an accomplished geometer, he is best remembered today for two important contributions to general relativity. Together with H. P. Robertson, the well-known Robertson–Walker metric for the Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker cosmological models, which are exact solutions of the Einstein field equation. Together with Enrico Fermi, he introduced the notion of Fermi–Walker differentiation.

University of Liverpool British university

The University of Liverpool is a public university based in the city of Liverpool, England. Founded as a college in 1881, it gained its royal charter in 1903 with the ability to award degrees and is also known to be one of the six original 'red brick' civic universities. It comprises three faculties organised into 35 departments and schools. It is a founding member of the Russell Group, the N8 Group for research collaboration and the university management school is AACSB accredited.

In 1965, Willmore returned to Durham, where he was appointed Professor of Pure Mathematics. He was elected Vice President of the London Mathematical Society in 1977, a post he held for two years. During that time, he was elected a member of The Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium.

London Mathematical Society

The London Mathematical Society (LMS) is one of the United Kingdom's learned societies for mathematics.

Willmore retired from the University of Durham in 1984 after holding the position of Head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences on three separate occasions, covering most of his Professorship there. He was given an honorary degree from the Open University in 1994.

Honorary degree degree awarded waiving requirements to honour an individual

An honorary degree is an academic degree for which a university has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, a dissertation, and the passing of comprehensive examinations. It is also known by the Latin phrases honoris causa or ad honorem . The degree is typically a doctorate or, less commonly, a master's degree, and may be awarded to someone who has no prior connection with the academic institution or no previous postsecondary education. An example of identifying a recipient of this award is as follows: Doctorate in Business Administration.

Open University Distance and research university in the United Kingdom

The Open University (OU) is a public distance learning and research university, and the biggest university in the UK for undergraduate education. The majority of the OU's undergraduate students are based in the United Kingdom and principally study off-campus; many of its courses can also be studied anywhere in the world. There are also a number of full-time postgraduate research students based on the 48-hectare university campus where they use the OU facilities for research, as well as more than 1,000 members of academic and research staff and over 2,500 administrative, operational and support staff.

A sculpture by Peter Sales was unveiled at the university 13 March 2012. It is entitled "Willmore Surface" and depicts a 4-lobed Willmore torus. [1]


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  1. University of Durham News Item 29 Feb 2012