02 Short CV (text)

Michael Thompson, FRS

Picture: astronomy with grandson Charlie McRobie

Michael Thompson was born in Cottingham, Yorkshire in 1937, and attended the Hull Grammar School. He graduated from Cambridge University with first class honours in mechanical sciences in 1958, winning the three top prizes of the Engineering Department. One of these was the prestigious Rex Moir Prize. He was later awarded two Cambridge doctorates, the PhD in 1962 and the ScD in 1977. Recently, in 2004, he received an honorary DSc from the University of Aberdeen.

While a post-doctoral research fellow at Peterhouse, he spent a year as a Fulbright visitor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University in California. Joining University College London (UCL) in 1964, he was appointed a Professor in 1977, and subsequently Director of the Centre for Nonlinear Dynamics in 1991.

Based on his research into elastic buckling phenomena, he published three books on instabilities, bifurcations and catastrophes. A fourth book published in 1986 is now in its second edition as Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos (Wiley, 2002). Over 14,000 copies of this seminal work have been sold world-wide, and it has been translated into Japanese and Italian.

 Michael was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1985, and served on the Council of the Society. He won the OMAE Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1985 in recognition of his outstanding originality and significance. Seven years later, in 1992, he was awarded the James Alfred Ewing Medal on the joint nomination of the Presidents of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Royal Society. The award, founded in memory of Sir Alfred Ewing, is made for special meritorious contributions to the science of engineering in the field of research. He was a Senior Fellow of the Science and Engineering Research Council from 1988 to 1993.

From 1998 to 2007, Michael was the Editor of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Series A: Mathematical, Physical & Engineering Sciences), the world’s longest running scientific journal. His special Millennium Issues of the journal, in which young scientists were invited to give their visions of the future, were re-published as three popular paper-backed books by Cambridge University Press in 2001. As a follow-up to this successful venture, Michael has created a running programme of Christmas Issues which he is using as the basis of his new Royal Society Series on Advances in Science. The first three books in the series are Advances in Astronomy: from the Big Bang to the Solar System (ed. JMT Thompson, ICP, 2005), Advances in Earth Science: from earthquakes to global warming (eds PR Sammonds & JΜΤ Thompson, ICP, 2007), Advances in Nanoengineering: electronics, materials and assembly (eds AG Davies & JΜΤ Thompson, ICP, 2007).

Michael is now Emeritus Professor of Nonlinear Dynamics at UCL, and an Honorary Fellow at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) of Cambridge University. He is active in promoting a greater understanding of science and mathematics among the general public. Two popular lectures in the Millennium Mathematics Project, delivered at DAMTP, are now streamed from the web, and also available on DVD. In 2004 Michael was awarded a Gold Medal by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) at their 40th Anniversary Meeting for his lifetime contributions to mathematics.

In April 2006, Michael was appointed, part–time, as a distinguished Sixth Century Professor in Theoretical and Applied Dynamics at the University of Aberdeen.

Married with two children and ten grandchildren, his recreations include astronomy with his grandchildren, wild-life photography, badminton and tennis.