David Rees (mathematician)

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David Rees
Born (1918-05-29)29 May 1918
Abergavenny, Wales
Died 16 August 2013(2013-08-16) (aged 95)[1]
Institutions University of Exeter
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Doctoral advisor
Doctoral students
Known for
Notable awards
Spouse Joan S. Cushen (m. 1952)

David Rees ScD Cantab, FIMA, FRS[4] (29 May 1918 – 16 August 2013) was an emeritus professor of pure mathematics at the University of Exeter, having been head of the Mathematics / Mathematical Sciences Department at Exeter for many years. During the Second World War, Rees was active on Enigma research in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park.[5][6]

Education and career[edit]

Rees was born in Abergavenny. He won a scholarship to Downing College, Cambridge. At some stage, his university career took a backseat as he was drafted into Hut 6, Bletchley Park for the war effort.

On completion of his education, he initially worked on semigroup theory, and Rees factor semigroup is named after him. He also gave a characterization of completely simple and completely 0-simple semigroups, nowadays known as Rees's theorem. The matrix-based semigroups used in this characterization are called Rees matrix semigroups.[3][7] At the behest of Douglas Northcott he switched his research focus to commutative algebra.[8] In 1954, in a joint paper with Northcott, Rees introduced the Northcott-Rees theory of reductions and integral closures which has subsequently been influential in commutative algebra.[9] In 1956 he introduced the Rees decomposition of a commutative algebra.

Before 1960, Rees and his family moved to the University of Exeter, where their fourth child was born.

Before 1971, Rees was appointed head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Exeter.

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1993 Rees was awarded the Pólya Prize by the London Mathematical Society. In August 1998 a conference on Commutative Algebra was held at Exeter in honour of David Rees' 80th Year. He was an Honorary Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge[10] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1968.[4]

Personal life[edit]

In 1952, he married Joan S. Cushen,[11] who became a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Exeter, with four children:

  1. (Susan) Mary Rees FRS, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Liverpool, b. 1953[12][13][14]
  2. Rebecca Rees, b. 1955[15]
  3. Sarah E. Rees, Professor of Pure Mathematics at Newcastle University, b. 1957[16][17]
  4. Deborah Rees, b. 1960[18]


  1. ^ "2013 death notices". Royal Society. Retrieved 2013-08-20. Professor David Rees FRS, 29 May 1918 - 16 August 2013 (elected 1968), Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics, University of Exeter, Council service: 1979 - 1981 
  2. ^ a b David Rees at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ a b c "Rees semi-group of matrix type - Encyclopedia of Mathematics". Eom.springer.de. 2011-02-07. Retrieved 2013-08-30. 
  4. ^ a b c Sharp, R. Y. (2015). "David Rees 29 May 1918 — 16 August 2013". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. Royal Society. 61. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2015.0010. ISSN 0080-4606. 
  5. ^ Rodney Sharp. "David Rees obituary | Education". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2013-08-30. 
  6. ^ "Bletchley Park Roll of Honour". Bletchley Park Trust. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Attila Nagy (2001). Special classes of semigroups. Springer. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-0-7923-6890-8. 
  8. ^ Biographical memoirs of fellows of the Royal Society: Volume 53
  9. ^ "Professor Douglas Northcott - Obituaries, News - The Independent". The Independent. London. 
  10. ^ "Downing College". Dow.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-30. 
  11. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: JUN 1952 4a 395 CAMBRIDGE - David Rees = Joan S. Cushen
  12. ^ GRO Register of Births: SEP 1953 4a 294 CAMBRIDGE - Susan M. Rees, mmn = Cushen
  13. ^ Asthana, Anushka. "Academics - Times Online". The Times. London. 
  14. ^ Professor Mary Rees FRS
  15. ^ GRO Register of Births: DEC 1955 4a 222 CAMBRIDGE - Rebecca Rees, mmn = Cushen
  16. ^ GRO Register of Births: DEC 1957 4a 338 CAMBRIDGE - Sarah E. Rees, mmn = Cushen
  17. ^ Prof. Sarah Rees
  18. ^ GRO Register of Births: JUN 1960 7a 442 EXETER - Deborah Rees, mmn = Cushen