Welchman Prize Winner

The Final of the second Annual Welchman Prize has been won by James Ruddell (C3 L6). The competition is entered by all pupils studying Further Mathematics A level in the Lower Sixth and each has to submit an extended article and give a presentation on its contents.

James responded to the stimulus ‘Explore an interesting counter-intuitive result in mathematics’ and his project, entitled ‘What is Infinity?’, explained the feasibility of the Banach-Tarski Paradox; a mathematical method by which you can take a solid sphere, decompose it into a finite quantity of regions, and reassemble them to make two spheres identical in volume to the original.

The other finalists, who presented in front of the Master, Deputy Head Academic, beaks and fellow pupils, were Jessica Reeve (NC), Cyriaque Genest (C3), and Elizabeth Tan (CO). Jessica wrote an article, sparkling with wit, using a probability argument to make the case for the cessation of breathalyser tests on Saturday nights. Cyriaque investigated, and attempted to fix, the apparent nonsensical expectation for winnings when the St Petersburg Lottery is played. Elizabeth’s article read like an enthusiastic ode to the prevalence of the golden ratio. Her excitement was infectious from beginning to end.

Owen Elton
Head of Mathematics

Gordon Welchman, for whom the prize is named, is Marlborough College’s most important mathematical alumnus. A lecturer in algebraic geometry at Cambridge University, his academic career was interrupted by the Second World War when he worked at Bletchley Park. His book, The Hut Six Story, was the first to give detailed information about the operations to crack German ciphers. In 2015, a BBC documentary called Bletchley Park: Code Breaking’s Forgotten Genius paid tribute to his secretive endeavours. While in charge of Hut Six, he recruited Marlborough College’s brightest mathematics pupils via his old teacher, A. Robson.

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