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Roger Penrose

Rouse Ball Professor of Mathmematics, University of Oxford

Roger Penrose was born 8 August 1931 in Essex. In 1939, he emigrated with his parents to London, Ontario, where the family remained until the end of the Second World War. They returned to Britain, and Penrose eventually entered University College London, where he earned his BSc with first class honours in mathematics. He went on to conduct research in pure mathematics at Cambridge University, working first under William Hodge, but later changing his supervisor to John Todd. He earned his PhD in 1957.

He worked as an assistant lecturer in pure mathematics at Bedford College, London, from 1956 to 1957, before being appointed to a three-year term as a research fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge. He married Joan Isabel Wedge in 1959. During this time, he began to publish articles on cosmology, in addition to his pure mathematical research.

He was awarded a NATO research fellowship and spent time at Princeton and at Syracuse University between 1959 and 1961. He returned again to Britain to serve as a research associate at King’s College, London, for two years, before going to the University of Texas at Austin as a visiting professor of mathematics in 1963. In 1964, he was appointed as a reader at Birbeck College, London, and in 1966 he became a professor at the same institution, where he remained until 1973, when he became the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, where he remained until his retirement in 1998.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1972, won the Science Book Prize in 1990, and shared the Wolf Foundation Prize for Physics with Stephen Hawking in 1988. He was knighted in 1994.

His publications include: Emperor’s New Mind : Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (1989), Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science Of Consciousness (1994), The Nature of Space and Time (with Stephen Hawking, 1996).

  • Alana Howard, University of Glasgow