Robin James Wilson (born 5 December 1943) is an emeritus professor in the Department of Mathematics at the Open University, having previously been Head of the Pure Mathematics Department and Dean of the Faculty. He was a stipendiary lecturer at Pembroke College, Oxford and, as of 2006[update], Gresham Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, London, where he has also been a visiting professor. On occasion, he teaches at Colorado College in the United States. He is also a long standing fellow of Keble College, Oxford.
Robin James Wilson
5 December 1943
|Alma mater||University College School, Hampstead, London|
University of Oxford (Balliol College)
University of Pennsylvania
|Institutions||Open University, |
Pembroke College, Oxford, Gresham College
|Doctoral advisor||Nesmith Ankeny|
|Doctoral students||Amanda Chetwynd|
Wilson was born in 1943 to the politician Harold Wilson, who later became Prime Minister, and his wife the poet Mary Wilson (née Baldwin). He has a younger brother, Giles, who in his 50s gave up a career as a teacher to be a train driver. Wilson attended University College School in Hampstead, North London. He achieved a BA First Class Honours in Mathematics from Balliol College, Oxford, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania (1965–1968) and a BA First Class Honours in Humanities with Music from the Open University. In a Guardian interview in 2008, Wilson spoke of the fact he grew up known to everyone primarily as a son of the Labour Party leader and Prime Minister Harold Wilson: "I hated the attention and I still dislike being introduced as Harold Wilson's son. I feel uncomfortable talking about it to strangers even now."
Wilson's academic interests lie in graph theory, particularly in colouring problems, e.g. the four colour problem, and algebraic properties of graphs. He also researches the history of mathematics, particularly British mathematics and mathematics in the 17th century and the period 1860 to 1940, and the history of graph theory and combinatorics.
In 1974, he won the Lester R. Ford Award from the Mathematical Association of America for his expository article An introduction to matroid theory. Due to his collaboration on a 1977 paper with the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős, Wilson has an Erdős number of 1.
In July 2008, he published a study of the mathematical work of Lewis Carroll, the creator of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass — Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His Fantastical Mathematical Logical Life (Allen Lane, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7139-9757-6). From January 1999 to September 2003, Wilson was editor-in-chief of the European Mathematical Society Newsletter. He is past President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics.
He has strong interests in music, including the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, and is the co-author (with Frederic Lloyd) of Gilbert and Sullivan: The Official D'Oyly Carte Picture History. In 2007, he was a guest on Private Passions, the biographical music discussion programme on BBC Radio 3.
Wilson is married and has twin daughters.