Professor John Cannon elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science

Congratulations to pure mathematician Professor John Cannon FAA of the University of Sydney’s school of Mathematics and Statistics, who has been elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor John Cannon
Professor John Cannon FAA. Image credit: MFO

Professor Cannon is a world expert on the development and implementation of algorithms in pure mathematics and is recognised throughout the mathematical community as the father of computational algebra system MAGMA. The system is the culmination of over 45 years of work, beginning at a time when the importance of mathematical computation was not widely understood.

First released in 1994, MAGMA is now used on a daily basis by tens of thousands of mathematicians to solve problems in algebra, geometry, group theory, and number theory (among other fields). “It has become an invaluable tool in the working lives of pure mathematicians around the globe,” says SMRI Director Professor Geordie Williamson.

Cannon coordinated the work of over 500 mathematicians who contributed to the algorithm library software. “Needless to say, the task of coordinating hundreds of researchers to produce a usable software package is huge, and Cannon has done a remarkable job,” says Williamson. The Journal of Symbolic Computation paper outlining the MAGMA system, co-authored by Cannon with Wieb Bosma and Catherine Playoust, is the most cited journal article of all time in mathematics, according to Mathscinet.

Professor Cannon has built a world leading research group in computational algebra. “As a child I wanted to be an astronomer, but things didn’t turn out that way,” he told the Australian Academy of Science. “I now work to emphasise the importance of pure mathematics in all parts of our society.”

Cannon has been recognised with several notable distinctions:

  • The CSIRO medal in 1993, the citation for which reads: “Dr. John Cannon’s contributions to computer algebra have changed the way many scientists throughout the world use mathematics in developing their knowledge and applying their research.”
  • The Clunies Ross Medal in 2001, awarded by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering
  • The Richard D. Jenks Memorial Prize in 2006, awarded to Canon by the Association for Computing Machinery for his work in Software Engineering Applied to Computer Algebra
  • A special issue of the Journal of Algebra in 2009 honoured the work of John Cannon and Derek Holt

Other mathematicians elected as Fellows in 2022 include pure mathematician Professor Catherine Greenhill of UNSW Sydney and applied mathematician Professor Kate Smith-Miles of the University of Melbourne.

Larissa Fedunik-Hofman