SIAM AG on Orthogonal Polynomials and Special Functions


Extract from OP-SF NET


Topic #6  --------------   OP-SF NET 8.4  ----------------  July 15, 2001

From: Tom Koornwinder (
Subject: Honorary Doctorate for Ian Macdonald

On 8 January 2002, at the celebration of its 370th anniversary, the University of
Amsterdam is to grant honorary doctorates to the Dutch art historian Eddy de
Jongh, the English mathematician Ian G. Macdonald, and Arthur Chaskalson, the
president of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

See the English translation of the official press release on webpage

The part on Macdonald is given below. This can also be found, with links, on

                         Eric Opdam and Tom Koornwinder


Ian Macdonald

Ian Macdonald (1928) is working in pure mathematics, in particular group theory,
algebraic combinatorics and the theory of special functions. Remarkable features
of his work are its great originality and an almost infallible intuition for
posing fundamental research questions. Macdonald has become famous amongst
mathematicians a.o. by his book 'Symmetric functions and Hall polynomials' and by
the introduction of the Macdonald polynomials.

'Symmetric functions and Hall polynomials' (1979, much extended second edition in
1995) is a standard reference book about the representation theory of the
symmetric group and its many combinatorical, algebraic and group theoretical
applications. In 'Affine root systems and Dedekind's eta-function' (Inventiones
Mathematicae 15, 1972) he establishes a connection between a number theoretical
observation by the physicist Freeman Dyson and the theory of simple Lie algebras.
In 'Some conjectures for root systems' (SIAM Journal on Mathematical Analysis 13,
1982) Macdonald formulates some conjectures about the combinatorical properties
of so-called root systems. In 1987/88 he defines a class of symmetric functions,
and more generally a class of polynomials associated with root systems, which are
now both known as Macdonald polynomials (see 'A new class of symmetric functions'
and 'Orthogonal polynomials associated with root systems' in Seminaire
Lotharingien Combinatoire 20, 1988 and 45, 2000). The impact of these
polynomials, both in mathematics and in theoretical physics, has been enormous.

Ian Macdonald started his scientific career in 1957 as a lecturer in mathematics
at the University of Manchester. Until his retirement in 1987 Macdonald has
worked during many years as a professor at Queen Mary College in London. Since
his retirement he has remained active in research with publications and lectures.

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