Brendan McKay

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Brendan Damien McKay (born 26 October 1951 in Melbourne, Australia) is an Emeritus Professor in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University (ANU). He has published extensively in combinatorics.

McKay received a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Melbourne in 1980, and was appointed Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University, Nashville in the same year (1980–1983).[1] His thesis, Topics in Computational Graph Theory, was written under the direction of Derek Holton.[2] He was awarded the Australian Mathematical Society Medal in 1990.[1] He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1997,[1] and appointed Professor of Computer Science at the ANU in 2000.[3]


McKay is the author of at least 127 refereed articles.[1]

One of McKay's main contributions has been a practical algorithm for the graph isomorphism problem and its software implementation NAUTY (No AUTomorphisms, Yes?).[4] Further achievements include proving with Stanisław Radziszowski that the Ramsey number R(4,5) = 25; proving with Radziszowski that no 4-(12, 6, 6) combinatorial designs exist, determining with Gunnar Brinkmann, the number of posets on 16 points, and determining with Ian Wanless the number of Latin squares of size 11.[5] Together with Brinkmann, he also developed the Plantri programme for generating planar triangulations and planar cubic graphs.[6]

Biblical cyphers[edit]

Outside of his specialty, McKay is best known for his collaborative work with a group of Israeli mathematicians such as Dror Bar-Natan and Gil Kalai, together with Maya Bar-Hillel, who rebutted a Bible code theory which maintained that the Hebrew text of the Bible enciphered predictive details of future historical events. The paper in question had been accepted for publication in a scientific peer-reviewed journal in 1994.[7][8][9] Their rebuttal, together with a paper written by an anonymous mathematician, argued that the patterns in the Bible that supposedly indicate some hidden message from a divine source or have predictive power can be just as easily found in other works, such as War and Peace.[10] The discredited theory was taken up by Michael Drosnin.[11][12] Drosnin said he was convinced of this theory when one of its exponents stated that the Torah predicted the Iraqi wars. He expressed his certainty publicly that such coded messages could not be found in any other work than the Bible, and, in an interview with Newsweek, he challenged:

"When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them."

Using the Bible decryption method espoused by the group led by Eliyahu Rips, McKay quickly found some nine references to Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in Herman Melville's masterpiece. He also showed that the same technique allowed him to find ostensible mentions of Diana, Princess of Wales, her lover Dodi Fayed, and their chauffeur Henri Paul in the same novel.[13]

This debunking disproof of a theory that the bible encrypts secret messages containing future world history achieved international fame for McKay outside of his specific field of combinatorics.[14][15][16]

Azzam Pasha quotation[edit]

McKay was involved in the uncovering of the original source of the Azzam Pasha quotation. The original source, an October 11, 1947 article in the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar al-Yom, was first referenced in an article by David Barnett and Efraim Karsh in the Fall 2011 issue of in Middle East Quarterly without reference to McKay.[17] Tom Segev responded in an op-ed in Haaretz that McKay had in fact been the original source of the material and had uploaded it to Wikipedia.[18] McKay had notified the Wikipedia talk page of having found the original interview from which the quote was taken and later provided it to Barnett. According to Karsh, McKay was offered a co-author credit in the Middle East Quarterly article but he declined on the grounds of having a low opinion of the publication.[19]


He gave an invited talk at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 2010, on the topic of "Combinatorics".[20]


  1. ^ a b c d 'Biography,'
  2. ^ Brendan McKay at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ 'McKay, Brendan Damien (1951 - ),' in Encyclopedia of Australian Science.
  4. ^ Pontifex Praeteritorum, Reading List: Graph Isomorphism The Quantum Pontiff (blog) 4 August 4, 2010
  5. ^ Brendan D. McKay, Ian M. Wanless, 'On the number of Latin squares,' Annaals of Combinatorics 9 (2009) pp.335-344.
  6. ^ Siemion Fajtlowicz (ed.), Graphs and Discovery: DIMACS Working Group, Computer-generated Conjectures from Graph Theoretical and Chemical Databases, American Mathematical Soc., 2005 p.x.
  7. ^ Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg, 'Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis,' Statistical Science, Vol. 9 (1994) 429-438.
  8. ^ Brendan McKay, Dror Bar-Natan, Maya Bar-Hillel, Gil Kalai, 'SOLVING THE BIBLE CODE PUZZLE,' Statistical Science, Vol. 14 (1999) 150-173.
  9. ^ Jordan Ellenberg, How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, Penguin, 2014 pp.99-101.
  10. ^ 'Equidistant Letter Sequences in Tolstoy's War and Peace.'
  11. ^ Sharon Begley, 'Seek And Ye Shall Find,' The Daily Beast 8 June 1997.
  12. ^ "Botschaften des Allmächtigen oder zurechtgeschusterte Daten?". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 18 August 2004. Archived from the original on 22 January 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  13. ^ Gérald Bronner, Belief and Misbelief Asymmetry on the Internet, John Wiley & Sons, 2016 pp.50-51.
  14. ^ Persi Diaconis, Ronald L. Graham, Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas that Animate Great Magic Tricks, Princeton University Press 2011 p.43.
  15. ^ H. J. Gans. "A Primer on the Torah Codes Controversy for Laymen (part 1)". Archived from the original on 18 March 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  16. ^ "Analysis of the "Gans" Committee Report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 June 2006. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  17. ^ David Barnett and Efraim Karsh (2011). "Azzam's genocidal threat". Middle East Quarterly, 18 (4) pp. 85–88.
  18. ^ Tom Segev, 'The Makings of History The Blind Misleading the Blind,' Haaretz 21 October, 2011
  19. ^ Efraim Karsh, 'Haaretz: The Paper for Thinking People?,' Algemeiner 11 December 2011-
  20. ^ "ICM Plenary and Invited Speakers since 1897". International Congress of Mathematicians.

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