PULLMAN, Wash. — Mathematician Gilbert Strang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will deliver the 23rd annual Theodore G. Ostrom Lecture at Washington State University. 

His lecture, “Fun with Congress, Fun with Pascal,” is slated for Wednesday, Jan. 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the Samuel H. Smith Center for Undergraduate Education, Room 202.  A reception will follow in the Hacker Lounge in Neill Hall, Room 216.

Strang served as president of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) during 1999 and 2000 and is chair of the U.S. National Committee on Mathematics for 2003-2004.

“This lecture will address two separate topics,” Strang said. “The first came from working with the applied math society SIAM. I was lucky to have two opportunities to explain to congressional committees why mathematics is important to our nation.  The testimony was short!” he said. “I will build on those experiences to discuss the process of research funding (especially at the National Science Foundation) and how we can try to play a part in shaping the decisions.

“The second part, which will appear in the March 2004 issue of the American Mathematical Monthly, is related to putting the famous Pascal triangle into a matrix and the unexpected properties that result.”

David Watkins, WSU professor of mathematics and organizer of the lecture, praises the mathematician’s contributions to the field. “Professor Strang has been one of the most visible and productive members of the applied mathematics community for many years,” he said. “He has written well over 100 papers on a wide variety of topics and six well-received textbooks. He is also a terrific speaker, and these talks are certain to be both entertaining and informative.”

Also on Jan. 14, Strang will deliver a mathematics colloquium, “Generating Good Meshes/Inverting Good Matrices,” in Neill 5W at 4:10 p.m.  Refreshments will be served prior to the presentation in Hacker Lounge, Neill 216, at 3:30 p.m.

Strang graduated from MIT in 1955, where he was named a William Barton Rogers scholar. He then spent two years as a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford University in England.  He earned a doctorate as a National Science Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1959.  Strang has also been a Sloan Fellow, a Fairchild Scholar and an Honorary Fellow of Balliol College and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He has taught mathematics at MIT since 1959.

The annual Theodore G. Ostrom Lecture Endowment brings an internationally renowned mathematics scholar to the Pullman campus for a series of presentations.  The lecture honors Emeritus Professor Ostrom, who retired from WSU in 1981 after 21 years on the mathematics faculty. He is expected to attend this year’s lecture.