Brian Hayward Bowditch (born 1961) is a British mathematician known for his contributions to geometry and topology, particularly in the areas of geometric group theory and low-dimensional topology. He is also known for solving the angel problem. Bowditch holds a chaired Professor appointment in Mathematics at the University of Warwick.
Brian Bowditch was born in 1961 in Neath, Wales. He obtained a B.A. degree from Cambridge University in 1983. He subsequently pursued doctoral studies in Mathematics at the University of Warwick under the supervision of David Epstein where he received a PhD in 1988. Bowditch then had postdoctoral and visiting positions at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the University of Warwick, Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques at Bures-sur-Yvette, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Aberdeen. In 1992 he received an appointment at the University of Southampton where he stayed until 2007. In 2007 Bowditch moved to the University of Warwick, where he received a chaired Professor appointment in Mathematics.
Whilst in University, Bowditch kept a collection of glass jars, which on one occasion were removed by some friends as a prank.
Early notable results of Bowditch include clarifying the classic notion of geometric finiteness for higher-dimensional Kleinian groups in constant and variable negative curvature. In a 1993 paper Bowditch proved that five standard characterisations of geometric finiteness for discrete groups of isometries of hyperbolic 3-space and hyperbolic plane, (including the definition in terms of having a finitely-sided fundamental polyhedron) remain equivalent for groups of isometries of hyperbolic n-space where n ≥ 4. He showed, however, that in dimensions n ≥ 4 the condition of having a finitely-sided Dirichlet domain is no longer equivalent to the standard notions of geometric finiteness. In a subsequent paper Bowditch considered a similar problem for discrete groups of isometries of Hadamard manifold of pinched (but not necessarily constant) negative curvature and of arbitrary dimension n ≥ 2. He proved that four out of five equivalent definitions of geometric finiteness considered in his previous paper remain equivalent in this general set-up, but the condition of having a finitely-sided fundamental polyhedron is no longer equivalent to them.
Much of Bowditch's work in the 1990s concerned studying boundaries at infinity of word-hyperbolic groups. He proved the cut-point conjecture which says that the boundary of a one-ended word-hyperbolic group does not have any global cut-points. Bowditch first proved this conjecture in the main cases of a one-ended hyperbolic group that does not split over a two-ended subgroup (that is, a subgroup containing infinite cyclic subgroup of finite index) and also for one-ended hyperbolic groups that are "strongly accessible". The general case of the conjecture was finished shortly thereafter by Swarup who characterised Bowditch's work as follows: "The most significant advances in this direction were carried out by Brian Bowditch in a brilliant series of papers (-). We draw heavily from his work". Soon after Swarup's paper Bowditch supplied an alternative proof of the cut-point conjecture in the general case. Bowditch's work relied on extracting various discrete tree-like structures from the action of a word-hyperbolic group on its boundary.
Bowditch also proved that (modulo a few exceptions) the boundary of a one-ended word-hyperbolic group G has local cut-points if and only if G admits an essential splitting, as an amalgamated free product or an HNN extension, over a virtually infinite cyclic group. This allowed Bowditch to produce a theory of JSJ-decomposition for word-hyperbolic groups that was more canonical and more general (particularly because it covered groups with nontrivial torsion) than the original JSJ-decomposition theory of Zlil Sela. One of the consequences of Bowditch's work is that for one-ended word-hyperbolic groups (with a few exceptions) having a nontrivial essential splitting over a virtually cyclic subgroup is a quasi-isometry invariant.
Bowditch also gave a topological characterisation of word-hyperbolic groups, thus solving a conjecture proposed by Mikhail Gromov. Namely, Bowditch proved that a group G is word-hyperbolic if and only if G admits an action by homeomorphisms on a perfect metrisable compactum M as a "uniform convergence group", that is such that the diagonal action of G on the set of distinct triples from M is properly discontinuous and co-compact; moreover, in that case M is G-equivariantly homeomorphic to the boundary ∂G of G. Later, building up on this work, Bowditch's PhD student Yaman gave a topological characterisation of relatively hyperbolic groups.
Much of Bowditch's work in 2000s concerns the study of the curve complex, with various applications to 3-manifolds, mapping class groups and Kleinian groups. The curve complex C(S) of a finite type surface S, introduced by Harvey in the late 1970s, has the set of free homotopy classes of essential simple closed curves on S as the set of vertices, where several distinct vertices span a simplex if the corresponding curves can be realised disjointly. The curve complex turned out to be a fundamental tool in the study of the geometry of the Teichmüller space, of mapping class groups and of Kleinian groups. In a 1999 paper Masur and Minsky proved that for a finite type orientable surface S the curve complex C(S) is Gromov-hyperbolic. This result was a key component in the subsequent proof of Thurston's Ending lamination conjecture, a solution which was based on the combined work of Minsky, Masur, Brock and Canary. In 2006 Bowditch gave another proof of hyperbolicity of the curve complex. Bowditch's proof is more combinatorial and rather different from the Masur-Minsky original argument. Bowditch's result also provides an estimate on the hyperbolicity constant of the curve complex which is logarithmic in complexity of the surface and also gives a description of geodesics in the curve complex in terms of the intersection numbers. A subsequent 2008 paper of Bowditch pushed these ideas further and obtained new quantitative finiteness results regarding the so-called "tight geodesics" in the curve complex, a notion introduced by Masur and Minsky to combat the fact that the curve complex is not locally finite. As an application, Bowditch proved that, with a few exceptions of surfaces of small complexity, the action of the mapping class group Mod(S) on C(S) is "acylindrical" and that the asymptotic translation lengths of pseudo-Anosov elements of Mod(S) on C(S) are rational numbers with bounded denominators.
A 2007 paper of Bowditch produces a positive solution of the angel problem of John Conway: Bowditch proved that a 4-angel has a winning strategy and can evade the devil in the "angel game". Independent solutions of the angel problem were produced at about the same time by Máthé and Kloster.
- Bowditch, Brian H. (1995), "Geometrical finiteness with variable negative curvature", Duke Mathematical Journal, 77: 229–274, doi:10.1215/S0012-7094-95-07709-6, MR 1317633
- Bowditch, Brian H. (1998), "A topological characterisation of hyperbolic groups", Journal of the American Mathematical Society, 11 (3): 643–667, doi:10.1090/S0894-0347-98-00264-1, MR 1602069
- Bowditch, Brian H. (1998), "Cut points and canonical splittings of hyperbolic groups", Acta Mathematica, 180 (2): 145–186, doi:10.1007/BF02392898, MR 1638764
- Bowditch, Brian H. (2006), "Intersection numbers and the hyperbolicity of the curve complex", Crelle's Journal, 598 (598): 105–129, doi:10.1515/CRELLE.2006.070, MR 2270568
- Bowditch, Brian H. (2007), "The angel game in the plane", Combinatorics, Probability and Computing, 16 (3): 345–362, doi:10.1017/S0963548306008297, MR 2312431
- Bowditch, Brian H. (2008), "Tight geodesics in the curve complex", Inventiones Mathematicae, 171 (2): 281–300, doi:10.1007/s00222-007-0081-y, MR 2367021
- Brian H. Bowditch: Me. Bowditch's personal information page at the University of Warwick
- B. H. Bowditch, "The angel game in the plane" Combinatorics, Probability and Computing, vol. 16 (2007), no. 3, pp. 345–362
- Brian Hayward Bowditch at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- Lynne Williams. "Awards" Times Higher Education, 24 October 1997
- "Records of Proceedings at Meetings" Bulletin of the London Mathematical Society, vol 30 (1998), pp. 438–448; Quote from the Whitehead Prize award citation for Brian Bowditch, pp. 445–446:"Bowditch has made significant and totally original contributions to hyperbolic geometry, especially to the associated group theory. [...] His deepest work is on the asymptotic properties of word-hyperbolic groups. This work simultaneously generalises and simplifies recent work of several authors, and it already has many applications. In one application, he develops a new theory of groups acting on dendrites. Building on previous contributions of G. Levitt, G. A. Swarup and others, this led him to a solution of the 'cut-point conjecture'. This recent work also yields a characterisation of word-hyperbolic groups as convergence groups. Bowditch has solved several major problems in geometric group theory using methods that are elegant and as elementary as they can be."
- European Congress of Mathematics, Stockholm, June 27 – July 2, 2004 European Mathematical Society, 2005. ISBN 978-3-03719-009-8
- Editorial Board, Annales de la Faculté des Sciences de Toulouse. Accessed 15 October 2008
- London Mathematical Society 2005 publications London Mathematical Society. Accessed 15 October 2008.
- B. H. Bowditch, "Geometrical finiteness for hyperbolic groups" Journal of Functional Analysis, vol. 113 (1993), no. 2, 245–317
- B. H. Bowditch, "Geometrical finiteness with variable negative curvature" Duke Mathematical Journal, vol. 77 (1995), no. 1, 229–274
- B. H. Bowditch, "Group actions on trees and dendrons" Topology, vol. 37 (1998), no. 6, pp. 1275–1298
- B. H. Bowditch, "Boundaries of strongly accessible hyperbolic groups" The Epstein birthday schrift, pp. 51–97, Geometry&Topology Monographs, vol. 1, Geom. Topol. Publ., Coventry, 1998
- G. A. Swarup, "On the cut point conjecture" Electronic Research Announcements of the American Mathematical Society, vol. 2 (1996), no. 2, pp. 98–100
- B. H. Bowditch, "Connectedness properties of limit sets" Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, vol. 351 (1999), no. 9, pp. 3673–3686
- B. H. Bowditch, "Cut points and canonical splittings of hyperbolic groups" Acta Mathematica, vol. 180 (1998), no. 2, 145–186.
- Z. Sela. "Structure and rigidity in (Gromov) hyperbolic groups and discrete groups in rank $$1 Lie groups. II" Geometric and Functional Analysis, vol. 7 (1997), no. 3, pp. 561–593
- B. H. Bowditch, "A topological characterisation of hyperbolic groups" Journal of the American Mathematical Society, vol. 11 (1998), no. 3, pp. 643–667.
- Asli Yaman. "A topological characterisation of relatively hyperbolic groups". Crelle's Journal, vol. 566 (2004), pp. 41–89.
- W. J. Harvey, "Boundary structure of the modular group". Riemann surfaces and related topics: Proceedings of the 1978 Stony Brook Conference (State Univ. New York, Stony Brook, N.Y., 1978), pp. 245–251, Ann. of Math. Stud., 97, Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N.J., 1981. ISBN 0-691-08264-2
- Howard Masur, and Yair Minsky, "Geometry of the complex of curves. I. Hyperbolicity" Inventiones Mathematicae, vol. 138 (1999), no. 1, pp. 103–149.
- Yair Minsky, "Curve complexes, surfaces and 3-manifolds". International Congress of Mathematics. Vol. II, pp. 1001–1033, Eur. Math. Soc., Zürich, 2006. ISBN 978-3-03719-022-7
- Brian H. Bowditch, "Intersection numbers and the hyperbolicity of the curve complex" Crelle's Journal, vol. 598 (2006), pp. 105–129.
- Brian H. Bowditch, "Tight geodesics in the curve complex" Inventiones Mathematicae, vol. 171 (2008), no. 2, pp. 281–300.
- John H. Conway, "The angel problem" Games of no chance (Berkeley, California, 1994), pp. 3–12, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Publications, 29, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996. ISBN 0-521-57411-0
- A. Máthé, "The angel of power 2 wins" Combinatorics, Probability and Computing, vol. 16 (2007), no. 3, pp. 363–374
- O. Kloster, "A solution to the angel problem" Theoretical Computer Science, vol. 389 (2007), no. 1-2, pp. 152–161