Jonathan (left) and Peter (center) are congratulated by Ron Tonts of Sun Microsystems of Canada.
From a field of eight nominees, including one other joint nomination, Simon Fraser University mathematicians Jonathan Borwein and Peter Borwein were selected as the CUFA/BC Academics of the Year for 1996.
The Borwein brothers had a particularly high profile in the fall of 1995 for calculating (in conjunction with Yasumasa Kanada of the University of Tokyo) the value of pi to a new world record of 4,294,967,286 decimal places. Pi is the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter, is one of the oldest, and most famous, mathematical ratios. Peter Borwein, working with colleagues at SFU and NASA, also calculated the 40 billionth binary digit of pi — also a world record. (Binary refers to the number system computers work with).
This is a different achievement, as Peter explains: “It has long been believed that if you want to compute the 40 billionth digit of pi you have to compute all the preceding digits first. What we’re doing is picking off the 40 billionth digit by itself. We don’t know or see what’s in-between.”
In her letter of nomination, Katherine Heinrich, chair of the SFU Department of Mathematics and Statistics, notes the Borwein’s work is not mere novelty, but on the cutting edge of the application of computers to mathematical questions previously thought unsolvable by computers. The Centre for Experimental and Constructive Mathematics (CECM), established by Jonathan and Peter in 1993, “immediately made Vancouver a centre of excellence in the use of computers as a powerful tool for both research in mathematics and for the teaching of mathematics,” Heinrich wrote.
Jonathan (Director of CECM) is author or co-author of three books and over 140 referred journal articles. Peter (Associate Director of CECM) is author or co-author of two books and more than 55 referred journal articles. They have shared the Chauvenet Prize of the Mathematical Association of America, and are both recognized for their dedication as teachers and their public service.
The caption on the slide reads: “Sorry I’m Late — I was working out Pi to 5,000 places”