Des MacHale Recieves Public Awareness of Maths Award







A special award ceremony took place on the 1st day of Maths Week Ireland 2016 to celebrate Raising Public Awareness of Mathematics


The inaugural Maths Week Ireland award is designed to honour individuals who have significantly contributed to raising awareness of mathematics in Ireland.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Professor MacHale said, ‘I humbly accept this prestigious award on behalf of my colleagues at UCC, my former students now working in mathematical areas all over the world, and the many people in radio, television, and journalism who have given me the opportunity of promoting the wonderful and useful subject of Mathematics. I would also like to thank all involved in Maths Week Ireland.  Maths Week is a fantastic opportunity for people of all ages to engage with maths through fun games, puzzles and challenges. I would like to wish all those involved every success for the week.’

Originally from Castlebar, County Mayo, where he attended Saint Gerald's College, Professor MacHale studied Mathematical Science at NUI Galway before undertaking his PhD at the University of Keele, under German Mathematics Professor, Hans Liebeck. Known in mathematics for his research into the area of groups and rings, MacHale is also well known for communicating his love of mathematics with the public. In particular he has been at the forefront in highlighting the life and legacy of George Boole, University College Cork’s first ever Professor of Mathematics.

Discussing the choice to honour Professor MacHale, Maths Week Founder Eoin Gill said, ‘Professor Des MacHale is a fitting recipient for our inaugural award for his service to mathematics. He has dedicated his life to the teaching and promotion of Mathematics. He has reached out further to the general public through radio and TV interviews, countless articles and numerous books often celebrating mathematical humour, e.g., with his book Comic Sections: The Book of Mathematical Jokes, Humour, Wit and Wisdom (1993). His biography of George Boole will continue to be the authoritative text on the life of the creator of Boolean Algebra – the mathematics on which the information age runs.’

Professor Mac Hale was presented with hand wrought patinated bronze sculpture of a Mobius Strip created by Irish silversmith Seamus Gill. The Mobius Strip is an important mathematical form as the strip has only one side. If you trace over the surface you will appear to go over to the other side but in fact you will end up back where you started.

Professor MacHale receiving his award from  Maths Week co-founder Dr Sheila Donegan. (photo Conor McCabe)


An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD sent a message of congratulations expressing regret that he couldn't attend the ceremony.

"I’m delighted that Professor Des MacHale, who is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at University College Cork, is being presented with the inaugural “Raising Public Awareness of Maths” award.  Through his internationally recognised research, Des has made an enormous contribution to the field of mathematics and has passed on his knowledge and experience to a whole generation of students. Des is a passionate admirer of the legacy of George Boole, first professor of mathematics at UCC and indeed he wrote the first comprehensive biography of Boole.

I’ve been told that the award has been crafted by Irish silversmith Seamus Gill and is modelled to represent a Mobius Strip, a mathematical curiosity that can undoubtedly be better explained by Des than by myself.

I would like to congratulate Des on this richly deserved award.  Indeed I recall him very well as a brilliant Leaving Certificate student all those years ago in St Gerald’s De La Salle College in Castlebar when I attended there as a young first year student.  He has been a role model for many in the years since."

The Taoiseach also added his support of mathematics and best wishes for Maths Week:

I’d like to convey my best wishes to everybody involved with Maths Week Ireland, the largest maths festival in the world with over 250,000 people of all ages set to take part in events this year right across Ireland. Maths is a core life skill for all and even more so now as we move quickly towards a digital society. Maths underpins attributes such as problem solving which are of critical importance across all sectors. It leads to many exciting career opportunities and is vital in producing a world class workforce. Undoubtedly, maths is a key driver of innovation and growth which impacts on our country’s economic development and technical progress.

This festival promotes an appreciation and an understanding of mathematics in a fun and interesting way and can make it less mysterious and more accessible to all.

I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Calmast STEM Outreach Centre at Waterford Institute of Technology who co-ordinate Maths Week as well as the sponsors of the event. These include the Department of Education and Skills, Science Foundation Ireland and the Department of Education of Northern Ireland, who recognise the value of a solid grounding in maths as a stepping stone to a rewarding career.

"I also congratulate everybody associated with Maths Week Ireland.  You have put a tremendous amount of hard work and planning into this event over many months.   I wish you all continued success."

Dr Hugh Gibbons, Dr Sheila Donegan and Prof Tony O'Farrell (photo Conor McCabe)


Neill Hallinan, Dr Nigel Buttimer and Dr Maurice O'Reilly at award reception (photo Conor McCabe)