Professor Alex Craik retired today (Tuesday 30th September) after 40 years as a member of staff in the University of St Andrews’ School of Mathematics and Statistics.
He was the guest of honour at a presentation ceremony to mark his contribution to the department. Having been an un
dergraduate at St Andrews during 1956-60 his association with the University is even longer. A relatively brief spell as a research student in Cambridge, where he received his doctorate, punctuated his connection with the University before he officially joined its staff in 1963.
Professor Craik remembers, “I intended staying for only a few years; but have remained for forty!”
During his time at the University, he has risen through the ranks, with 1987 seeing his promotion to a Chair of Applied Mathematics. He is an eminent researcher of international standing whose work is noted not only for its high quality but also for its ingenious construction of theoretical models that explain puzzling experimental and natural phenomena. Many of these concern wave motion, and include windrows or streaks, often seen on lakes on windy days.
In the University he taught a wide range of courses on mathematics and its applications, and he has also been a key speaker at numerous international conferences.
Looking back on those early days Professor Craik recalls that: “There was no electronic computer of any kind in St Andrews; nor were there any Xerox copiers. Almost all letters, teaching material and research papers were written by hand and typed by a departmental secretary. Though the computer has revolutionised how mathematics is done, there have been many other advances too.”
In retirement, Professor Craik aims to continue his studies into the history of mathematics, in particular the often under- estimated contributions of Scottish mathematicians during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Mathematics has a long history in St Andrews with James Gregory, one of the co-founders of calculus (along with Newton and Leibniz) elected the first Regius Professor of Mathematics in the 17th century. He is also looking forward to improving both his garden and his guitar-playing.
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