Moyal Medal

Moyal Medal

The Moyal Medal is awarded annually by Macquarie University for research contributions to mathematics, physics or statistics, the areas of research of the late Professor José Enrique Moyal who was Professor of Mathematics at Macquarie University for five years from 1973 to 1977.

José Enrique Moyal

José Enrique Moyal

Born in Jerusalem on 1 October 1910

Died in Canberra on 22 May 1998

Joe Moyal was one of Australia’s most remarkable scientists. His insight into the interaction between mathematics, physics and statistics led him to make contributions to these disciplines which have had far-reaching ramifications in all three fields. The Moyal formalism which he introduced in 1949 is being developed today in physics as the Moyal quantum mechanics.

Born and raised in Palestine under the British Mandate, he went to France to study and then work in electrical engineering. He moved to Cambridge to study mathematics, and then returned to Paris to study statistics and theoretical physics.

During the first years of the Second World War, he worked for the British on a secret project together with French scientists in Paris. As the Germans were invading Paris, he could see that this material would come under enemy hands, so co-opted some French troops who were passing by to help him destroy the equipment and records, with the exception of some which he smuggled back to London. Following this, he worked for de Havilland on aircraft design, often taking frequency measures aloft, squashed in the cockpit of developmental fighter planes.

After the war, he started an academic career as a mathematical physicist in Belfast, and then as a statistician in Manchester. At this time, he made fundamental contributions to both fields, introducing the Moyal bracket into physics, and developing the foundations of stochastic processes.

Moyal came to Australia in 1958, and worked for six years in the Department of Statistics at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the Australian National University in Canberra. There he trained several graduate students who are now eminent professors in Australia and the United States, and also made fundamental contributions to the theory of population processes, enabling researchers to track population size as well as the characteristics of individuals.

He extended this work at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, where he worked from 1964 to 1973 on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Following this, he returned to Australia to spend five years as a Professor of Mathematics at Macquarie University. Following his retirement, he went back to Canberra where he maintained his interest in the fundamental questions of science. In 1997, the Australian National University conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science, stating that “he is one of a diminishing breed of mathematical scientists working in a broad range of fields, in each of which he has made fundamental advances”.

Moyal was also an adventurous scuba diver and an avid wine connoisseur. A more detailed picture of him appeared in the book Breakfast with Beaverbrook by the distinguished historian of science, Ann Moyal, whom he married in 1963. He died in Canberra in 1998, and is survived by Ann and two children from his previous marriage.

Moyal Medal Rules

The recipient of the Moyal Medal will have made distinguished contributions to research in mathematics, physics or statistics. Preference will be given to candidates with cross-disciplinary interests, chiefly across the disciplines of mathematics, physics or statistics, but other disciplines can be involved. The field of research of the recipient will normally, but not necessarily, rotate between the three named disciplines each year.

The recipient can either be an Australian, an Australian resident or someone visiting Australia at the appropriate time, and must give a public lecture, the Moyal Lecture on Mathematics, Physics and Statistics, at Macquarie University in the year that she/he is awarded the Moyal Medal. The Medal will be presented at the lecture.

The Moyal Lecture should be such as to provide an intellectual meeting ground for researchers in these three disciplines from Macquarie University and other universities and research establishments. It is hoped that the public lecture will be accessible to honours and graduate students in these disciplines.

The Moyal Medal Committee will be composed of one representative from each of the disciplines of mathematics, physics and statistics at Macquarie University, plus the Head of the Mathematics Department at Macquarie University who is responsible for ensuring that the Committee discharges its duty. One of the representatives will be Chair of the Committee. The Chair will call the meetings of the Committee and negotiate with the Moyal Medallist to arrange the time of the Moyal Lecture.

The Committee will make recommendations concerning the choice of the Moyal Medallist each year with due regard for the requirement that the Moyal Lecture be given by the recipient in that year.

The recommendation of the Committee will be presented by the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering for approval.

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