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O'Shea, Donal (Donal B. O'Shea)

O'Shea, Donal (Donal B. O'Shea)

PERSONAL:

Born in Canada; immigrated to United States, 1980; son of Daniel and Anne O'Shea; married Mary Della Barker, December 16, 1978; children: Seamus, Brendan, Sarah, Kathleen. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1974; Queen's University, Canada, M.Sc., 1976, Ph.D., 1981.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Dean of Faculty Office, Mt. Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA 01075. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Academic and administrator. Mt. Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, assistant professor, 1980-86, associate professor, 1986-91, professor of mathematics, 1991—, then Elizabeth T. Kennan Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, dean of mathematics faculty, 1998—, vice president of academic affairs. Visiting professor, University of Kaiserslautern, 1988-89; visiting professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1991-92, 1997-98; visiting professor, University of Edinburgh, 2004-05; visiting professor, University of Miami, 2004-05.

MEMBER:

Canadian Mathematical Society (member of board of directors, 1995-99), Société Mathématique de France, American Mathematical Society, Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Wide Reform award, National Science Foundation, 1998; recipient of numerous grants.

WRITINGS:

An Exposition of Catastrophe Theory and Its Applications to Phase Transitions, introduction by A.J. Coleman, Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario, Canada), 1977.

(With David Cox and John Little) Ideals, Varieties, and Algorithms: An Introduction to Computational Algebraic Geometry and Commutative Algebra, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1992, 3rd edition, Springer (New York, NY), 2007.

(With David Cox and John Little) Using Algebraic Geometry, Springer (New York, NY), 1998, 2nd edition published as Using Algebraic Geometry, Springer (New York, NY), 2005.

The Poincaré Conjecture: In Search of the Shape of the Universe, Walker (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Donal O'Shea is an academic and administrator. Born in Canada, O'Shea came to the United States in 1980, less than two years after marrying his wife, Mary Della Barker. O'Shea began his formal education in the United States, graduating with a bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1974. He subsequently returned to Canada to complete a master of science degree in 1976 and a Ph.D. in 1981 from Ontario's Queens University.

O'Shea began working as an assistant professor of mathematics at Mt. Holyoke College in 1980. In 1986 he was promoted to associate professor of mathematics. He was made a full professor of mathematics in 1991 and later named as the Elizabeth T. Kennan Professor of Mathematics and Statistics. O'Shea became the dean of the mathematics faculty in 1998 and also works as the vice president of academic affairs at the college. His research areas center around singularity theory, algebraic and differential geometry, and mathematical physics and biology. In addition to his service at Mt. Holyoke College, O'Shea has been a visiting professor at a number of universities, including the University of Kaiserslautern, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Miami, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

O'Shea published The Poincaré Conjecture: In Search of the Shape of the Universe in 2007. The book revives a conjecture posed by the nineteenth-century French mathematician Henri Poincaré regarding the characterization of three-dimensional spheres among three-dimensional manifolds, which was proved by the Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman in 2006. O'Shea outlines the process taken to prove the conjecture.

John Derbyshire, reviewing the book in the New York Sun, wrote that the author "tells the whole story in this book, neatly interweaving his main theme with the history of ideas about our planet and universe. There is good coverage of all the main personalities involved, each one set in the social and academic context of his time. The author does his best to make the math accessible. The odder sorts of three-dimensional manifolds are by no means easy to visualize, even for professionals, but Mr. O'Shea offers some helpful analogies." John Morgan, writing in the American Scientist, commented that "The Poincaré Conjecture is a fine example of mathematical writing for a general audience. Those with an interest in knowing what mathematics is about, in understanding mathematical ideas, and in tracing the history of famous mathematical problems should read it. No matter what their mathematical background, readers will find much to further stimulate their interest and will learn about both the history of mathematics and its most recent spectacular advances." Morgan also suggested that professional mathematicians "will derive great pleasure from seeing their subject so well presented," adding that "it should serve as a model to inspire more good general writing by mathematicians, whose field has so much worth explaining and so few good expositors."

A contributor to Publishers Weekly disagreed on the clarity issue, noting that "readers will need to do a little Wikipedia-ing first to find out just what it is they're reading about." Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor mentioned that readers who have difficulty with some of the more technical aspects of the book "can yet digest the author's connection of the conjecture to the shape of the universe." Stephen Ornes, reviewing the book in Discover, proposed that this book "will appeal to math whizzes and interested novices alike." A contributor to the SciTech Book News pointed out that in discussing the detailed process of answering Poincaré's question from 1904, the author "makes the journey accessible to general readers and interesting to the mathematically inclined." Ian D. Gordon, writing in Library Journal, remarked that "O'Shea successfully weaves mathematical proofs with curious insights to tell a great story."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Mathematical Monthly, June 1, 1994, Moss Sweedler, review of Ideals, Varieties, and Algorithms: An Introduction to Computational Algebraic Geometry and Commutative Algebra.

American Scientist, August 2, 2008, Greg Ross, author interview; August 2, 2008, John Morgan, review of The Poincaré Conjecture: In Search of the Shape of the Universe.

Booklist, February 15, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Poincaré Conjecture, p. 20.

Chicago Tribune Books, March 11, 2007, Nathan L. Harshman, review of The Poincaré Conjecture, p. 4.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May 1, 1993, D.V. Feldman, review of Ideals, Varieties, and Algorithms, p. 1504; June 1, 1999, D.V. Feldman, review of Using Algebraic Geometry, p. 1827; October 1, 2007, F.E.J. Linton, review of The Poincaré Conjecture, p. 320.

Discover, March 1, 2007, Stephen Ornes, review of The Poincaré Conjecture, p. 67.

Library Journal, January 1, 2007, Ian D. Gordon, review of The Poincaré Conjecture, p. 142.

Mathematics Teacher, February 1, 2008, Harold Allen, review of The Poincaré Conjecture, p. 480.

New Scientist, May 19, 2007, Ben Longstaff, review of The Poincaré Conjecture, p. 58.

New York Sun, March 7, 2007, John Derbyshire, review of The Poincaré Conjecture.

Publishers Weekly, January 1, 2007, review of The Poincaré Conjecture, p. 45.

SciTech Book News, June 1, 2007, review of The Poincaré Conjecture.

ONLINE

Mt. Holyoke College Web site,http://www.mtholyoke.edu/ (August 2, 2008), author profile.

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