The 1995 ANZIAM Medal

The Selection Panel for the 1995 ANZIAM Medal proposes that the Medal be awarded to Professor Renfrey Burnard Potts.


We cite the followingoutstanding contributions of Professor Potts in terms of the selection criteria for the medal.

  • Research achievements

Professor Potts's research career involves some main fields

    • Ising-type models in mathematical physics
    • car-following and road traffic
    • operations research, especially networks
    • difference equations
    • robotics

Professor Potts's status is high in each of these fields, and they are in some ways so distinct that one comes across people who view him as a leader in one of them, without being aware that he has ever contributed in the others. He has published more than 90 journal and conference papers, spread fairly evenly across the above fields. His most-cited paper (in Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc., 1952) is in the first field, and the "Potts model" still represents a major topic for research by others in that field. But Operations Research is perhaps his most important field, and he was largely responsible for the development of this field in Australia. His work on difference equations is related to, and to a certain extent anticipates, modern research on chaos.

In addition he supervised 21 PhD students, many of whom now occupy positions of importance in the research community. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1975.

  • Activities enhancing applied or industrial mathematics, or both

Professor Potts was almost single-handedly responsible for the strong growth of the discipline of applied mathematics at the University of Adelaide, and in particular for its existence as a separate department from 1974. He has also been active in mathematical education matters on the national and international scene, including taking the lead in the organisation of the 1988 Mathematical Olympiad, the 1984 ICME Conference, the Academy of Science "Mathematics at Work" books, and as an early opponent of "New Maths".

Professor Potts has had a strong influence on industrial applications of mathematics in Australia. This is manifested in the direct industrial application of his research, his consulting work with private and government departments, his organisation work for the Academy of Science, and as Foundation President of the South Australian Computer Society (which was the forerunner of the large and high profile Australian Computer Society).

  • Contributions to ANZIAM

Professor Potts played a major role in the activities of the Division of Applied Mathematics of the Australian Mathematical Society (the progenitor of ANZIAM). He was instrumental in its formation in 1973, Chairman in 1978-9, an Executive Member in 1974 and 1986, and an Associate and Assistant Editor of its journal during most of its history. He was an invited speaker at the annual conference of the Division in 1973 and 1976. As always, the Potts lectures were well attended for he is a brilliant lecturer and communicator.

  • Recommendation

Professor Potts has played an outstanding role in applied mathematics in Australia for more than 35 years. His achievements have been recognized by his investitute in 1991 as an "Officer of the Order of Australia". For his splendid achievements that have done so much to shape Industrial and Applied Mathematics in Australia, the Selection Panel recommend that Professor Potts be awarded the inaugural ANZIAM Medal.

Updated: 11 Jan 2008