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Born in Oxford in December 1940, I was educated in Hull from January 1945 to June 1959, at Bricknell Avenue Primary School and Hymers College. I studied mathematics as an undergraduate at Queen’s from 1959 to 1963. My DPhil, awarded 1966, was written under the supervision of Professor Graham Higman FRS. I was Senior Scholar at Merton College for the academic year 1963/64, was elected Junior Research Fellow in Pure Mathematics at Queen’s in 1964 and became a Tutorial Fellow in 1966 and Lecturer in the University in 1967. I was awarded a DSc degree by Oxford in 1976, the Lester R. Ford Award by the Mathematical Association of America in 1987, the Senior Whitehead Prize by the London Mathematical Society in 2003, and the David Crighton Medal jointly by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and the London Mathematical Society in 2012. I was appointed an Officer in the Order of the British Empire, New Year 2008, for services to education. The University of Oxford gave me a Lifetime Teaching Award in 2008. I retired in September 2008 and was elected to an Emeritus Fellowship of Queen’s.
In Queen’s I taught all branches of pure mathematics to undergraduates. I served as Dean of Degrees from 1968 to 1973, Tutor for Admissions 1980 to 1986, Senior Tutor 1990 to 1995 and 2004 to 2008, and Secretary to the Queen’s Association 2000 to 2008.
For the University I lectured to undergraduates and graduate students on anything of interest to myself and, I hope, to them. I supervised MSc and DPhil students in any area related to my own research; 38 students completed doctorates under my supervision. Being retired I am now taking on no new doctoral students. For four years from 1995 I was in charge of university teacher training. I served as Faculty Teaching Advisor for the Mathematics Department from October 2009 to September 2013.
In the past I have served on the Council of the London Mathematical Society (LMS) in a number of different roles, as Chairman of the United Kingdom Mathematics Trust (UKMT), as President of the British Society for History of Mathematics (BSHM), as a member (representing the International Mathematical Union) of the Executive Committee of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics (ICHM), and as editor of various journals and monograph series, etc. Presently (April 2015 t0 April 2016) I am serving as President of the Mathematical Association (MA).
I was awarded an honorary DSc degree by the University of Hull in January 2016.
After retirement on 30 September 2008, I continued to teach for both College and the University and also to offer enrichment activities for mathematically gifted schoolchildren. All this activity ended when I suffered a stroke on 28 February 2018, which paralysed my left arm and my left leg. My arm remains paralysed, but there’s a little improvement in the leg. I now live in a care home where I expect to stay until I can walk again. That is likely to be more than a year in the future, so no earlier than late 2020.
My contributions have ranged over a number of areas of algebra and its history. I have published about 130 articles, books and reviews on subjects such as: varieties of groups; finite permutation groups; infinite permutation groups; soluble groups; quantitative topics in group theory; design of group-theoretic algorithms; matrices over finite fields; miscellaneous questions in combinatorics, geometry and general group theory; history of group theory.
My present research is concerned with a number of different areas: infinite permutation groups and automorphism groups of relational structures; design of algorithms for computing with matrix groups over finite fields; statistics of the distribution of matrices over finite fields; miscellaneous questions; history of group theory.
- The mathematical writings of Évariste Galois, ISBN 978-3-03719-104-0. Heritage of European Mathematics, European Mathematical Society Publishing House, Zürich, 2011. Errata (1st Printing), Reprinted September 2013
- Enumeration of finite groups [with Simon R Blackburn and Geetha Venkataraman]. Cambridge Tracts in Mathematics 173, ISBN 978-0-521-88217-0, CUP, Cambridge 2007
- The Collected Papers of William Burnside [With A. J. S. Mann and Julia C. Tompson] (2 vols), ISBN 0-19-850585-X, OUP, Oxford 2004
- Groups and Geometry [With Gabrielle A. Stoy and Edward C. Thompson], ISBN 0-19-853452-3 and 0-19-853451-5, OUP, Oxford 1994
- Jacqueline Anne Stedall (4 August 1950–27 September 2014). Historia Mathematica, 42 (2015), 5–13.
- The editors and editions of the writings of Évariste Galois. Historia Mathematica, 39 (2012), 211–221.
- Galois and his groups. Newsletter of the European Mathematical Society, 82 (December 2011), 29–37.
- Primitive permutation groups and their section-regular partitions. Michigan Math. J., 58 (2009) (Volume dedicated to the memory of D. G. Higman), 309–322.
- The concept of primitivity in group theory and the Second Memoir of Galois. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci., 60 (2006), 379–429.
- Orbital equations in primitive permutation groups. Q. J. Math. (Oxford), 57 (2006), 93–103.
- On tensor factorisation problems, I: the combinatorial problem. [With Cheryl E. Praeger] LMS J. Comput. Math., 7 (2004), 73–100.
- Three-star permutation groups. [With Cheryl E. Praeger], Illinois J. Math., 47 (2003), 445–452.
- Alternating groups acting on finite linear spaces. [With Alan R. Camina and Cheryl E. Praeger], Procs London Math. Soc. (3), 87 (2003), 29–53.
- The life of Issai Schur through letters and other documents. [With Walter Ledermann], in Studies in memory of Issai Schur, (Proceedings of a workshop in Weitzmann Institute, Tel-Aviv, December 2000, eds Anthony Joseph, Anna Melnikov and Rudolph Rentschler), Progress in Mathematics, Vol. 210 Birkhäuser (Boston 2003), pp. xlv–xc.
- A generating function approach to the enumeration of cyclic and separable matrices in classical groups over finite fields. [With Jason E. Fulman and Cheryl E. Praeger], Memoirs Amer. Math. Soc., Vol. 176, No. 830 (July 2005), pp. vi + 90.
- Cyclic matrices and the MEATAXE. [With Cheryl E. Praeger] in Groups and Computation, III, (Procs Conf. on Computational Group Theory, OSU 1999, eds A. Seress and W. M. Kantor), Ohio State University Math. Res. Inst. Publ. 8, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2001, pp. 291–300.
- Almost simple matrix groups: desiderata and suggestions. In Groups and Computation, III (Procs Conf. on Computational Group Theory, OSU 1999, eds A. Seress and W. M. Kantor), Ohio State University Math. Res. Inst. Publ. 8, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2001, pp. 281–299.
- Cyclic matrices in classical groups over finite fields. [With Cheryl E. Praeger] J. Algebra, 234 (2000), 367–418.