Person: Robinson, G. de B.
G de B Robinson was a Canadian mathematician best known for his work on combinatorics and the representation theory of the symmetric groups.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Percy Robinson was born in Whitby, Ontario and studied at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1896.
- Esther Beauregard was a French girl who also studied at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1894.
- She was one of the first women to graduate from the University and was a grandnephew of the Confederate general Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (1818-1893).
- St Andrew's College was founded in Toronto in 1899.
- It was a boys independent school and Percy Robinson was appointed as the first classics master at the school from its foundation.
- experimenting within the range of certain methods which seem specially adapted to interpret the most typical Canadian scenery to Canadians in an original and forceful manner.
- Percy Robinson is best known today as a historian, writing the classic book Toronto during the French Regime, 1615-1793 (1933).
- The school was modelled on the typical British independent school and, during the years that Robinson studied there, the headmaster was Dr D Bruce Macdonald.
- St Andrew's College had moved to Rosedale in 1905 and it was at that site when Robinson was a pupil.
- During these years pupils attended classes in the buildings of Knox College.
- He may frequently be found playing catch in the classroom with some of his cricket enthusiasts.
- Robinson expects to study mathematics and physics at Toronto with a view to a professorship, and we have no doubt we will find him some day at the head of his department.
- Excellent teaching by Mr Fleming at St Andrew's College must be one of the reasons for Robinson developing a passion for mathematics.
- He wrote a delightful article Newton vs.
- He graduated from St Andrew's College in 1923 having been awarded top prizes for both sport and academic achievement.
- Robinson obtained first class honours in seven papers and second class in three.
- He did not apply for a scholarship but has received the Headmaster's medal which is given only in exceptional circumstances.
- We congratulate him heartily.
- He began his university studies of mathematics and physics at the University of Toronto in 1923 and was ranked first in each of his years at University College.
- Robinson graduated from the University of Toronto in 1927 and undertook research at Cambridge University in England.
- He had been awarded one of the two scholarships granted to Toronto University for proficiency in Mathematics, under the John H Moss foundation.
- Since he headed his class each year, he was accorded the unusual honour of being allowed to forego the usual Tripos examination at Cambridge.
- He writes that between rowing in one of the eights, lectures and study, his time is fully occupied.
- Do not hasten to begin this work and avoid working in a well known domain: there is little to discover in such domains.
- Do not forget to study the theory of groups, one of the most fundamental fields of Modern Mathematics." Newman had reached the same conclusion and had been in touch with Alfred Young who agreed to take me on.
- It was just before my return to Toronto for the summer.
- He gave me a copy of 'On Quantitative Substitutional Analysis III' which had just come out and told me to read Miller, Blichfeldt and Dixon.
- Dirac sat at the head of the graduate students table in Hall at St John's.
- After two years at Cambridge, he returned to Toronto where he taught for an academic year before returning to Cambridge to complete his research.
- He was awarded a Ph.D. in 1931 for his thesis On Certain Finite Linear Groups and their Configurations of Associated Points.
- In September 1931 he submitted his paper On the Geometry of the Linear Representations of the Symmetric Group to the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society.
- Robinson was appointed as a lecturer at the University of Toronto and, two years later he was promoted to Assistant Professor in Mathematics.
- Robinson spent the whole of his career on the Faculty of the University of Toronto until he retired in 1971.
- However, from 1941 to 1945 he undertook war work in Ottawa with the National Research Council of Canada.
- He was appointed director of the 'Signals Intelligence Examination Unit' which was Canada's first civilian unit that worked solely on the encryption and decryption of communication signals.
- It was an important part of Canada's contribution during World War II.
- He was one of the founders of the decoding section which gave Canada some influence in this area after the war ended.
- For his war work, Robinson was made a Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.) in 1946.
- Most of Robinson's research papers investigate representations of the symmetric group.
- His early papers include: Note on an equation of quantitative substitutional analysis (1935) and On the fundamental region of an orthogonal representation of a finite group (1937).
- He wrote three papers entitled On the Representations of the Symmetric Group which were published in the American Journal of Mathematics in 1938, 1947, and 1948.
- The first is an application of the Frobenius-Schur theory of the characters which is valid for any group, the second is the 'substitutional analysis' of Alfred Young.
- Neither of these methods tells the whole story, and they should be used in conjunction.
- Robinson wrote six papers entitled On the modular representations of the symmetric group which appeared in 1951, 1952, 1952, 1954, 1955, and 1955.
- The first three and the sixth were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. The other two were published in the Canadian Journal of Mathematics.
- We must mention at this point some important books authored by Robinson: The Foundations of Geometry (1940); Representation theory of the symmetric group (1961); and Vector Geometry (1962).
- the author succeeds in combining rigour of treatment with simplicity and elegance in exposition.
- This work deserves to be widely read; it should dispel some at least of the mysticism which still seems to be associated with the subject by some mathematicians.
- this is a most excellent book, and it will inspire many students of mathematics.
- There are other books on ordinary representations, though the author has a distinctive approach based largely on the work and methods of Alfred Young.
- The greater part of the book, however, and by far the more significant, is the account of the modular representations of the symmetric groups.
- Much work has been done on this in recent years, the author being a significant contributor.
- This book, which describes clearly the main features of this development, is very welcome.
- Projective, affine, elliptic and hyperbolic geometries are mentioned briefly - so briefly, in some instances, as to render the text almost meaningless to a reader who does not already know the subject.
- The topics from Euclidean geometry receive a more detailed exposition, but the result is not very different from chapters on analytic geometry in dozens of American calculus textbooks which make a nod in the direction of vectors.
- The book also contains a chapter on groups and linear transformations, which does not seem to tie in with the rest of the book.
- Robinson, who was retired but came into the Department most days, was extremely kind to me during this visit and went out of his way to help make my visit a good one.
- He had spent the earlier part of the year in Europe, taking part in a workshop in Strasbourg on the symmetric group, then going to Aachen to work with Gordon James and Adalbert Kerber on new edition of his book Representation theory of the symmetric group.
- Robinson, together with Donald Coxeter, founded the Canadian Journal of Mathematics which began publishing in 1949.
- He was managing editor of the Journal for thirty years.
- the G de B Robinson Award was inaugurated to recognize the publication of excellent papers in the 'Canadian Journal of Mathematics' and the 'Canadian Mathematical Bulletin' and to encourage the submission of the highest quality papers to these journals.
- He was honoured by being elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1944.
- He was a founding member of the Canadian Mathematical Congress in 1945, giving an address to the Congress on the Foundations of Geometry.
- He received several medals and other awards from the federal and provincial governments for these and similar community services.
- personal qualities of clear insight, quiet resolution, perseverance and industry, self-discipline, and commitment, broadened by a charitable understanding of his profession and community.
Born 3 June 1906, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Died 8 April 1992, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Group Theory, Origin Canada
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive