Person: Milner, Eric
Eric Milne was an English mathematician who spent much of his time abroad and who worked mainly in combinatorial set theory.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- This is exactly what happened here, for Frederick Milner was often out of work and Annie helped out with the finances as a seamstress.
- The authorities tried to find a more suitable place to send him but this took time and Eric wandered around the streets of London when he should have been at school.
- At King's College, mathematics was part of the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science when Milner began his studies.
- Milner graduated with a First Class Honours degree in mathematics in 1949 having received the Drew Gold Medal as top ranked mathematics student in that year.
- At that time, National Service was compulsory in Britain, and Eric applied to join the Royal Navy, in which his academic record would normally have secured a commission and in which he might well have made his career.
- Milner sailed on the ship Glenroy from London to Singapore on his way to Malaya, leaving London on 9 October 1951.
- Soon after both Guy and Milner arrived, they met socially and Guy tried hard to persuade Milner to give up his idea of working as a commercial assistant for the Straits Trading Company and join the Mathematics Department of the University of Malaya.
- Milner took a lot of persuading but eventually decided that he would give it a try.
- While he had been a student at King's College, London, Milner had met Esther Stella Lawton (known as Estelle).
- We see that despite Milner having been doing research on quantum mechanics while in London, he had becoame interested in number theory at the University of Malaya.
- Milner's first research paper was the joint publication Generalized decimals (1955) with Oppenheim.
- Milner's interest in number theory and combinatorial set theory was greatly increased by Paul Erdős who made several visits to Singapore.
- It may have been Erdős's influence which finally convinced Milner that a university career in mathematics was right for him.
- Certainly it was through a suggestion by Erdős that Milner spent his sabbatical leave, 1958-59, at the University of Reading with Richard Rado.
- Milner knew Rado well from his time at King's College, London, and Rado had moved to Reading to take up the chair of mathematics there in 1954.
- Another strong influence on Milner's career was Andras Hajnal whom he met in Reading in 1958.
- We note at this point that Eric and Estelle Milner had three sons: Mark, Paul and Simon.
- Back in Singapore, Milner and Oppenheim published another joint paper, Properties of tetrahedra (1960).
- Milner had begun a Ph.D. at the University of London before going to Singapore so, back in Britain in a university post, he immediately decided to complete his doctorate, not in quantum mechanics but in his new area of interest, combinatorial set theory.
- Two of Milner's Singapore colleagues, Richard Guy and Peter Lancaster (born 1929), had moved from Singapore to the University of Calgary in Canada.
- They tried to persuade Milner to take a position in Calgary and, in 1967, he accepted a professorship at the University of Calgary.
- Milner spent the rest of his career in Calgary, becoming a Canadian citizen in 1973.
- When we say that Milner "spent the rest of his career in Calgary" we mean that he continued to hold his permanent professorship there.
- Eric and Elizabeth Milner had one son, Robert born in January 1985.
- Milner was a plenary 1-hour speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians held in Vancouver in August 1974.
- People tell with particular warmth of the welcome and hospitality extended to numerous guests in the Milner household (during both of his marriages).
- Milner's health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with cancer.
Born 17 May 1928, London, England. Died 20 July 1997, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive