That’s Maths: The social side of mathematics

The IMS deals with high level stuff, but an opening exists for a group catering to the layperson

On a cold December night in 1976, a group of mathematicians assembled in a room in Trinity College Dublin for the inaugural meeting of the Irish Mathematical Society (IMS). Most European countries already had such societies, several going back hundreds of years, and it was felt that the establishment of an Irish society to promote the subject, foster research and support teaching of mathematics was timely.

The society has been going strong for the past 45 years. It has organised numerous meetings and conferences and has coordinated activities in a wide range of mathematical fields. The current president is Dr Tom Carroll, who is based in UCC, and there are local representatives at all the centres of higher education. IMS has a keen interest in mathematical education at all levels and a new subcommittee, the Irish Committee for Mathematics Education, has recently been established.

The Society has reciprocity agreements with the Irish Mathematics Teachers Association and with several societies abroad, including the American Mathematical Society, the Deutsche Mathematiker Vereinigung and the London Mathematical Society. IMS is also a member of the European Mathematical Society and is affiliated with the International Mathematical Union (IMU).

Recently, the Royal Irish Academy decided it would no longer fund Ireland's participation in the IMU. The IMS Committee, feeling that continuing Irish participation in IMU is essential, took over from the Academy the role of Adhering Organisation to the union.


Annual meeting begins today

Each year, IMS organises a scientific meeting, at which mathematicians from all over the country can present new research and discuss mathematical matters. It is a great opportunity to network with colleagues, learn about recent advances and establish new lines of collaboration.

This very day, the 34th Annual IMS "September Meeting" begins, jointly hosted by University College Cork and the newly-formed Munster Technical University. Activities today take place in the Berkeley Library of MTU. Tomorrow, the action moves to the Western Gateway Building of UCC.

The meeting will consist of invited talks and poster presentations on a wide variety of topics of interest to the mathematical community in Ireland. The event will have a hybrid format, with on-site speakers, and delegates able to attend talks virtually if they wish. Students and early career researchers will have a chance to display posters about their research, and a prize will be awarded for the best student poster.

The meeting programme lists 13 speakers. Arcane phrases in the titles indicate some of the specialities: holomorphy in Jordan structures, quantum computation, affine invariant measures and 4-manifold topology. Clearly, this is not a meeting intended for "the interested layperson" but is at an advanced level.

IMS is primarily concerned with professional mathematicians, but there is an opening for an organisation serving the needs of everyone interested in mathematics, focusing on recreational maths and with an emphasis on the beauty, utility and pure delight of the subject. Associations like this are found in many other countries. Perhaps an energetic and enthusiastic reader will seize this opportunity to establish the Irish mathematical association.

A UCD zoom course, on recreational mathematics, AweSums: Marvels and Mysteries of Mathematics, will be presented this Autumn by yours truly. Registration is now open at

Peter Lynch is emeritus professor at UCD School of Mathematics & Statistics. He blogs at