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Obituary: Sir Vaughan Jones

Sir Vaughan Jones, Class ’66, KNZM FRS FRSNZ FAA, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, passed away suddenly last night.

Sir Vaughan, an eminent scholar joined Vanderbilt University in 2011 as a Distinguished Professor of mathematics. He was also Professor Emeritus at University of California, Berkeley and Distinguished Alumni Professor at the University of Auckland.

Sir Vaughan was a recipient of the Fields Medal, which is widely regarded as the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics,” in 1990 and famously wore the New Zealand Rugby jersey when he gave his acceptance speech in Kyoto.

The recognition was, in part, because of his discovery of a relationship between Von Neumann algebras and geometric topology. The discovery led to his finding a new polynomial invariant for knots and links in three-dimensional space – something that had been missed by topologists during the preceding 60 years.

He was also a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was also awarded the Rutherford Medal by the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1991

He was named a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DCNZM) in 2002 for services to mathematics.   In 2009 this was redesignated to a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Sir Vaughan was a proud New Zealander who attended Auckland Grammar School from 1966 to 1969 and was named Old Boy of the Year in 1990.

He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees (1st class Honours) from the University of Auckland and earned his doctorate from the University of Geneva. He was an F.W.W Rhodes Memorial Scholar.

His appointments included: Honorary Vice President International Guild of Knot-tyers, 1992, Fellow of the Royal Society, 1990, Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and was a fellow of the American Mathematics Society.

The collective thoughts of the Grammar community are with his wife, Martha Jones, Associate Professor of Medicine, heath and society, and their three children.

The Flag on the Main Block will remain at half-mast today respecting the life of Sir Vaughan Jones (1952 – 2020)



Opening of the Vaughan Jones Building at Auckland Grammar School:

Interview with Vaughan Jones on 11 February 2000: