Gordon Preston

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Gordon Bamford Preston (28 April 1925 – 14 April 2015) was an English mathematician best known for his work on semigroups. He received his D.Phil. in mathematics in 1954 from Magdalen College, Oxford.[1]

He was born in Workington and brought up in Carlisle. During World War II, he left his undergraduate studies at Oxford University for Bletchley Park, to help crack German codes with a small group of mathematicians which included Alan Turing. At Bletchley Park he persuaded Max Newman (who thought that the women would not care for the "intellectual effort") to authorise talks to the Wrens to explain their work mathematically, and the talks were very popular.[2]

After graduation, he was a teacher at Westminster School, London and then The Royal Military College of Science. In 1954 he wrote three hugely influential papers in the Journal of the London Mathematical Society, laying the foundations of inverse semigroup theory. Before Gordon and Al Clifford's book, The algebraic theory of semigroups (Vol 1 1961) (Vol 2 1967) and the Russian, E S Lyapin's, Semigroups (1960) there was no systematic treatment of semigroups. The algebraic theory of semigroups was hailed as an excellent achievement which greatly influenced the future development of the subject.[3] In 1963, Professor Preston moved to Australia to take up the chair of mathematics at Monash University, Melbourne.[4][5]

Professor Preston was an important contributor to algebraic semigroup theory and a respected head of school during his various Monash appointments from 1963 until his retirement in 1990.

He subsequently spent six months each year in both Oxford, UK, and Melbourne, Australia, passing away peacefully on 14 April 2015 in Oxford at age 89.[6]


  1. ^ Gordon Preston at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ McKay, Sinclair (2013). The Lost World of Bletchley Park. London: Aurum Press. pp. 60,61. ISBN 978-1-78131-191-2. 
  3. ^ Howie, John M. (1976) Introduction to Semigroup Theory, Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-754633-2
  4. ^ "Preston biography". History.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk. 1925-04-28. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  5. ^ "References for Preston". Gap-system.org. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  6. ^ "Vale Gordon Preston". Monash University. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 

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