Remembering Dr. Peter Borwein, Professor of Mathematics

August 28, 2020
Peter Borwein with Fan Chung, Ron Graham, Richard Guy, Persi Diaconis, and Veselin Jungic (Photo courtesy of Veselin Jungic)

By Dr. Veselin Jungic

Dr. Peter Borwein passed away on Sunday, August 23rd, with his wife Jennifer at his side.

Peter Borwein was an exceptional person, a well-rounded intellectual, a creative and productive mathematician, an inspiring teacher, and a generous mentor and collaborator.

Peter obtained his B.Sc. (1974) at the University of Western Ontario and his M.Sc. (1976) and Ph.D. (1979 under the supervision of David Boyd) at the University of British Columbia.

In spring 1980, during his post-doctoral studies at the Oxford University, Peter accepted an assistant professor position at Dalhousie University.

Since 1993, when he and his brother Jonathan joined the SFU Department of Mathematics, Peter has contributed to our community in numerous ways: he and Jonathan established the Centre for Experimental and Constructive Mathematics (CECM), in the late 1990s he served as the PIMS SFU site director, and in the early 2010s was able to secure the funding of 11 million dollars for building and running the IRMACS Centre, a visionary project with the purpose to, in Peter's words, “host any scientist who uses computers as a tool in their research.” Peter was the true heart and soul of the IRMACS Centre.

Peter has nearly 200 scientific publications, including several books, to his credit. Peter's research interests spanned Diophantine and computational number theory, classical analysis and symbolic computation. He had a central interest in scientific collaboration and computational experimentation technologies. For example, the Bailey-Borwein-Plouffe (BBP) formula is still one of the major tools in calculating digits of the number Pi.

Peter was a member of the several editorial boards, including "Ramanujan Quarterly" and "Electronic Transactions on Numerical Analysis."

Peter was a recipient of the Chauvenet Prize and the Hasse prize 1993 (with Jonathan Borwein and David H. Bailey) and a co-recipient of the 1996 CUFA/BC Academic of the Year Award.

On a personal note, Peter was my friend, mentor, and a role model. On Saturday, March 13, 2004, Peter was the first speaker in the "A Taste of Pi" series of talks and activities. Appropriately, the title of his talk was "A VERY LARGE Piece of Pi."

Peter was born in St. Andrews, Scotland, on May 10, 1953.

Due to COVID the family will not be having a ceremony in the near future but hope for one in the Spring/summer of next year.

A graduate scholarship has been created in memory of Peter. Learn more and continue his work of giving back to the community here