Maths Week to celebrate George Gabriel Stokes’s contribution to mathematics

George Gabriel Stokes
George Gabriel Stokes

The Sligo man’s work is still used to model climate change today



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13 August 2019 | 0

Maths Week 2019 will pay homage to the legacy of Irish mathematician George Gabriel Stokes.

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Stokes birth. To celebrate this landmark, his work will be integrated into Maths Week, which runs from October 12-20. It will be a key element of the events and information for schools and the public.

As one of the most influential science administrators of the 19th century, Stokes made multiple important contributions to maths, physics and engineering. During his illustrious career, the Sligo man held the same Cambridge professorship as Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking. He was also a Cambridge MP and president of the Royal Society.

Strokes influence remains, his maths is still used to model climate change. “It’s wonderful to think that the genius of Stokes’ mathematical equations still has such a strong significance today, helping climatologists to figure out what’s happening with our world as we face existential challenges through climate change,” said Maths Week co-founder Dr Sheila Donegan.

“At the heart of the weather is the movement of air. Air moves in three dimensions – it can change direction, speed, swirl and turn which makes it difficult to describe and predict. Navier-Stokes equations are used to describe the movement of air, water and other fluids. These equations are central to climate models, but they are too complex to be solved directly, so computer programmes are used to approximate the answers. 

“George Gabriel Stokes was one of the developers of these equations in the 19th Century and mathematicians are still working with them to find better ways of modelling to predict the future.”

Now in its 14th year, Maths Week is a central driver of maths promotion in Ireland. Discussing the importance of promoting mathematics, Donegan said: “Ireland needs to have a continuing emphasis on maths and numeracy at a national level, in line with our overall progress in the area of STEM-related subjects.

“It’s essential that we have an adequate pool of appropriately skilled graduates to create, attract and maintain high quality jobs in this country, where all of these sectors of the economy are showing a strong demand for graduates and this will increase in the future.

“In general terms, it is the case that maths and numeracy enable every aspect of life and living in Ireland, so an overall proficiency is clearly essential for everyone in our society and economy.” 

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