David Rees (mathematician)

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David Rees
Born (1918-05-29)29 May 1918
Died 16 August 2013(2013-08-16) (aged 95)[1]
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Doctoral students Michael P. Drazin
O.A.S Karamzadeh
Inder Bir Passi
Known for Artin–Rees lemma
Rees algebra
Rees factor semigroup
Rees matrix semigroup[2]
Rees's theorem[2]
Notable awards Pólya Prize (1993)

David Rees ScD Cantab, FIMA, FRS (Mathematics) (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.[3][4]

Rees was born in Abergavenny. 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' theorem. The matrix-based semigroups used in this characterization are called Rees matrix semigroups.[2][5] At the behest of Douglas Northcott he switched his research focus to commutative algebra.[6] 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.[7]

Before 1971, Rees was appointed head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Exeter. 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[8]


In 1952, he married Joan S. Cushen,[9] 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[10][11][12]
  2. Rebecca Rees, b. 1955[13]
  3. Sarah E. Rees, Professor of Pure Mathematics at Newcastle University, b. 1957[14][15]
  4. Deborah Rees, b. 1960[16]


  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 c "Rees semi-group of matrix type - Encyclopedia of Mathematics". Eom.springer.de. 2011-02-07. Retrieved 2013-08-30. 
  3. ^ Rodney Sharp. "David Rees obituary | Education". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2013-08-30. 
  4. ^ "Bletchley Park Roll of Honour". Bletchley Park Trust. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Attila Nagy (2001). Special classes of semigroups. Springer. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-0-7923-6890-8. 
  6. ^ Biographical memoirs of fellows of the Royal Society: Volume 53
  7. ^ "Professor Douglas Northcott - Obituaries, News - The Independent". The Independent (London). 
  8. ^ "Downing College". Dow.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-30. 
  9. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: JUN 1952 4a 395 CAMBRIDGE - David Rees = Joan S. Cushen
  10. ^ GRO Register of Births: SEP 1953 4a 294 CAMBRIDGE - Susan M. Rees, mmn = Cushen
  11. ^ Asthana, Anushka. "Academics - Times Online". The Times (London). 
  12. ^ Professor Mary Rees FRS
  13. ^ GRO Register of Births: DEC 1955 4a 222 CAMBRIDGE - Rebecca Rees, mmn = Cushen
  14. ^ GRO Register of Births: DEC 1957 4a 338 CAMBRIDGE - Sarah E. Rees, mmn = Cushen
  15. ^ Prof. Sarah Rees
  16. ^ GRO Register of Births: JUN 1960 7a 442 EXETER - Deborah Rees, mmn = Cushen

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