The Copson lectures

The Copson lectures have been held, rather infrequently, since 2005. Edward Copson, the Regius Professor of Mathematics at the University of St Andrews from 1950 to 1969, died in February 1980. His wife, Beatrice, the elder of two daughters of Edmund Taylor Whittaker, professor of mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, died in February 2004. Beatrice Copson left a legacy to fund the "Copson lectures." I [EFR] wrote to Marcus du Sautoy (Oxford) inviting him to deliver the first Copson lecture:
Dear Marcus

I would like to invite you to give the first Copson Lecture at the University of St Andrews in the first semester of 2005-6. Let me give you some background.

Edward Copson was my professor at St Andrews. He died in 1980. Recently his family have given the University money to fund a biennial "Copson Lecture". We would like to have this lecture aimed at, say, the school/university level so that it would be attractive to our undergraduates, school pupils in the last couple of years at school, and to as wide a spectrum of mathematically literate people from the community as possible. We would be delighted if you would be the first Copson Lecturer.

As to timing, we are very flexible. Perhaps a date in October or November 2005 would be the most appropriate.

I very much hope that you will be able to accept this invitation.

Best wishes


Marcus du Sautoy delivered the first Copson lecture entitled 'Music of the primes' on 11 October 2005. The following report was in the 2005 Annual Report of the School of Mathematics and Statistics of the University of St Andrews:
The School received a generous endowment from the Copson family to fund a biennial lecture in memory of Professor Edward Copson, a former Regius Professor of Mathematics here at St Andrews. The inaugural Copson lecture was held in October. The lecture, entitled "The Music of the Primes", was given by Professor Marcus du Sautoy to a packed lecture theatre. The speaker was introduced by the Master of the United College, Professor Keith Brown, and a vote of thanks was given by Ken Falconer.
The following is a list of all Copson lectures:
  1. Title: The Music of the Primes.
    Lecturer: Marcus du Sautoy (Oxford).
    Date: Tuesday, 11 October 2005.
    Abstract: See THIS LINK.
    Marcus supplied us with publicity photographs, see THIS LINK.

  2. Title: How likely is that?
    Lecturer: John Haigh (Sussex).
    Date: Monday, 10 December 2007.
    Abstract: See THIS LINK.

  3. Title: Sudoku and Mathematics.
    Lecturer: Peter Cameron (QMUL).
    Date: Monday, 14 December 2009.
    Abstract: See THIS LINK.

  4. Title: Closing the Gap: the quest to understand prime numbers.
    Lecturer: Vicky Neale (Oxford).
    Date: Friday, 22 September 2017.
    Abstract: See THIS LINK.

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JOC/EFR October 2017

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