Maths Profs play ball to launch trophy

09 October 2008 | Story by Myolisi Gophe

Emer Profs John Webb & George Ellis
Encouraging: Emer Profs John Webb and George Ellis have initiated a maths trophy with a famous cousin to recognise the best first-year maths major student.

There is a Webb Ellis Cup being contested at UCT. That must be a joke. It certainly all started as a joke.

Emeritus Professors of the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, John Webb and George Ellis, joked during the Rugby World Cup tournament last year, where the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup, about the possibility of having a similar award. They both laughed, but ended up taking it seriously.

That led to the establishment of the Webb-Ellis Mathematics Trophy, to be awarded annually to a first-year student with the best overall performance in mathematics and applied mathematics.

Ellis explained: "What inspired us was the realisation that if rugby could have a Webb Ellis trophy, it would be a great idea to have one for mathematics too, and of course we would be the right people to initiate it."

Ellis said they hope to encourage students to do the full maths major (pure and applied mathematics), and aim to recognise achievement in the first year of this joint major, "which is the best route to professional mathematics, and is also an excellent foundation for any scientific career."

Webb said a small departmental committee would be set up to select the winner after the end-of-year examinations.

The trophy is a silver cup, which will be engraved with the winner's name each year. It will remain housed and displayed in the department, and each year the winner will be presented with a personal miniature replica, which they will keep.

Ellis and Webb have a long joint history. They were undergraduate students together at UCT, postgraduates together at Cambridge University, and colleagues on the staff of the UCT Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics for over 30 years.

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