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Tait Institute

The Tait Institute was founded by Nick Kemmer in 1955 in honour of Peter Guthrie Tait.

The identification of Mathematical Physics as a discipline distinct from physics and mathematics in Edinburgh began in 1922 when the Tait Chair of Natural Philosophy was established using the Tait Memorial Fund endowment. The chair was named after Peter Guthrie Tait, a close colleague of William Thomson and James Clerk Maxwell, and the intention was thus that it should be devoted to the teaching of mathematical physics.

The Tait Institute provided an umbrella for both teaching and research in Mathematical Physics. On the teaching side, members of the Tait Institute took responsibility for the undergraduate degrees in Mathematical Physics, which have acquired excellent reputation.
Research activity covered a broad range of areas in Mathematical/Theoretical and Computational Physics. It used to hold workshops and schools and host an annual lecture by distinguished mathematical physicists called the Schlapp Lecture. As of 2012, the Higgs Centre is fulfilling these roles.

The Tait Medal was awarded to the best final year students in Mathematical Physics or Mathematics & Physics.

2014

Michał Tomaszewski

2013

Sabin Roman

2012

Alastair Heffernan, Vladimir Prochazka, Mara Ungureanu

2011

Donald Slater

2010

Andrea Thamm

2009

Mariusz Szmigiel and David Marsh

2008

Alasdair Thompson and Michael Alexander

2007

Miriam McGilvery

2006

Gustav Sonne

2005

Ian McGhee and Andrew Duncan

2004

Jack Raymond

2003

Julian Sonner

2002

Andrew Angel

2001

Neil Drummond

2000

Michael Ramage

1999

Ian Vernon

1998

Alexander Graves and Andrew Stott

1997

Gordon T McAndrew

1996

Adrian Hunter

1995

Andrew E Teschendorff

1994

Anne E Currie and Douglas A Smith

1993

David J Miller

1992

Callum M MacLean

1991

Alastair K Ewing

1990

Robin F Steel

1989

James D E Grant

1988

Mark J Filipiak

1987

Alexander G Watt

1986

James K McKee

1985

Bruce M Forrest

1984

Christopher J Scott

1983

Stephen R Huggins

1982

Ian David King

1981

John S Sim

1980

Malcolm J Duncan and Ian A Fox

1979

James P Fraser, Elizabeth J Gardner and Harald S Kogon

1978

Peter J Corvi

1977

Andrew C Starritt

1976

No prize awarded

1975

T A Couper

1974

Graham M Shore

1973

W Merton

1972

Corrane Sloan

1971

J G Rodger

1970

P Denton

This annual lecture was instituted in honour of Robert (Robin to his friends) Schlapp when he retired in 1968. Robin was appointed to a Lectureship in Applied Mathematics in 1925 as an assistant to Charles G Darwin, the first Tait Professor of Natural Philosophy. When Max Born replaced Darwin in 1936, Robin took on most of his administration and lecturing duties. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1964. The lecture has been given by many distinguished physicists, including Nobel Prize winners Edward Appleton and Paul Dirac.
Peter Guthrie Tait
Peter Guthrie Tait
Max Born
Max Born
Nick Kemmer
Nick Kemmer
David Wallace - on left of Peter Higgs
David Wallace (left), Peter Higgs (right)

A Brief History of the Tait Institute

1936

Max Born was appointed the second Tait Professor, after escaping from Nazi Germany. Born was one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, and won the Nobel prize for the probabilistic interpretation. In Edinburgh he gave his address variously as the Department of Natural Philosophy, and the Department of Applied Mathematics, but by 1943 he had resolved to call it the Department of Mathematical Physics. Find out more about Max Born

1953

Nick Kemmer became the third Tait Professor on Born's retirement and in 1955 moved his department to the Tait Institute of Mathematical Physics in Roxburgh Street. Find out more about Nick Kemmer

1966

The title of the chair was changed to the Tait Chair of Mathematical Physics. Peter Higgs wrote his famous papers while a lecturer at the Tait Institute in the early 1960’s.

1971

The Department of Mathematical Physics merged with the Department of Natural Philosophy to become the Department of Physics as part of the move to King’s Buildings.

1979

David Wallace succeeded Nick Kemmer on his retirement. A shift of interest towards parallel computing led to the formation of EPCC in 1990. Find out more about David Wallace

1994

Richard Kenway succeeded as the fifth and current Tait Professor, when Wallace became Vice-Chancellor of Loughborough University. Kenway retired in 2021. Find out more about Richard Kenway