Evergreen former staffer turns 100

29 November 2006

Not a bad innings: Prof Michael Whiteman (middle), who turned 100 recently, with Prof John Webb and daughter Sybil Morris.

"Mathematics is the tool specially suited for dealing with abstract concepts of any kind, and there is no limit to its power in this field," wrote Paul Dirac, the founder of quantum theory, in the preface to The Principles of Quantum Mechanics in 1930. If anyone should know about no limit to power, it is Emeritus Professor Michael Whiteman, who celebrated his 100th birthday on November 2. The former head of UCT's Department of Mathematics & Applied Mathematics, Whiteman did his postgraduate work with Dirac at Cambridge in the 1920s. Eight decades later and Whiteman shows no signs of slowing down. He is the author of six books and is currently proofreading his seventh. A few more are in the pipeline, reports Professor John Webb, who with current HOD, Professor Christopher Gilmour, visited Whiteman just before his birthday to wish him well. Until a year ago, Whiteman still drove himself around. Born in London in 1906, he attended Gonville and Caius Colleges in Cambridge in the 1920s, obtaining an MA in mathematics. Greeting cards from Cambridge are on display on his mantelpiece. (There are currently three alumni of Gonville and Caius College in UCT's maths department - Professor Daya Reddy, Dr Jurie Conradie and Webb.) Whiteman came out to South Africa during the 1930s and taught at Bishops for a couple of years before joining the staff of UCT. He retired in the early 1970s.

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