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Joint SAMS-AMS-SAMSA Mathematics Conference

(sponsored by the LMS and UNESCO)

Pretoria, South Africa

25-28 JUNE 1997

Scientific Report

Johann Engelbrecht
(Organising Committee)


For the first time in history, the South African Mathematical Society (SAMS), the Southern African Mathematical Sciences Association (SAMSA) and the American Mathematical Society (AMS) presenting a joint conference in Mathematics and Mathematics Teaching. The conference was also sponsored by the London Mathematical Society (LMS).

This was the first time that South Africa is involved in cooperation of this nature in Mathematics. The department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Pretoria hosted the conference in the conference centre of the University of Pretoria.

It is also the first time that SAMSA joined forces with SAMS to present a conference. In the past, there were virtually no relations between SAMS (based in South Africa) and SAMSA (the mathematical society of the neighbouring countries in southern Africa.) This joint venture introduced a new era in cooperation in Mathematics in southern Africa.

Organising Committee

The organising committee consisted of:
  • Susan Friedlander (AMS)
  • Michael Sears (SAMS)
  • Elmer Rees (LMS)
  • Johan Swart (University of Pretoria)
  • Johann Engelbrechtt (University of Pretoria)


The conference was attended by 373 delegates representing 28 countries. The distribution was as follows

Australia : 2
Austria : 2
Belgium : 2
Botswana : 2
Brazil : 1
Canada : 5
Denmark : 1
France : 2
Germany : 5
Italy : 2
Lesotho : 1
Mozambique : 5
Netherlands : 1
New Zealand : 1
Poland : 4
Reunion : 1
Russia : 1
Singapore : 1
Slovenia : 1
South Africa : 228
Spain : 1
Swaziland : 1
Tanzania : 1
Uganda : 2
United Kingdom : 18
USA : 73
Zambia : 3
Zimbabwe : 7

Academic activities

Nine invited presentations and 259 presentations in 17 different special sessions formed the academic programme of the conference. The session on Functional Analysis and Operator Theory was split into two parallel sessions at times. This means that at times, 18 parallel lectures were taking place. The session on Secondary and Post-secondary Curriculum Reform was probably best attended with average attendance of about 80 people.

Full details of the academic programme, including abstracts of most of the presentations, were published in the Conference Programme.

Social Activities

Social activities arranged by the organisers were
  • Wednesday 25 June 1997: A cocktail party
  • Thursday 26 June 1997: A braai dinner presented by the Mayor of Pretoria
  • Friday 28 June 1997: A Jazz band concert
These social functions were attended very well and made a big contribution to the success of the conference.


We are very grateful for financial support received from various institutions including UNESCO (Venice Office : Regional Office for Science and Technology for Europe) US National Science Foundation London Mathematical Society SA/US Binational Commission Support Fund for Science and Technology Anglo American and De Beers Chairman's, Fund Educational Trust Furthermore we are also very grateful to a number of other companies for support. A full list of sponsors appeared in the Conference Programme.

Subjective Comments

The conference was regarded by many delegates as a big success, academically as well as in fixing ties between a big group of mathematicians from different countries. Of particular significance to me as organiser were * the interest shown by mathematicians from neighbouring countries to South Africa. The SAMSA representative suggested that a steering committee between SAMS and SAMSA be appointed to arrange regular joint meetings between the two societies. * the participation of mathematicians from the "historically black universities" in South Africa. SAMS congresses in the past were normally attended by about 120-150 people, most of them from the "historically white universities". This conference was attended by 228 people from South Africa and the presence and excitement of mathematicians from the "historically black universities" were noticable. * the excellent, friendly spirit that was really outstanding. This was very much evident at the social activities in particular. It was described by an American delegate as if "the conference seemed to generate an energy to fix and improve relations between people that did not know each other formerly".

In retrospect, I recommend that similar joint conferences definitely be considered again in future.

Johann Engelbrecht
August 1997