Nevil Shute and Carl Runge

We all have our special loves, as Kate calls them, things we cleave to with a personal feeling that becomes a part of our identity. For me, among authors, it is Nevil Shute, all of whose novels I’d read by age 20. My father was an engineer, and our family spent time in Australia, so Shute was a natural for me even before I became a fellow of his Oxford college, Balliol.

Among mathematicians, my special one is Carl Runge, a German from Bremen who looks just like my German great-grandfather Henry Newman in a formal photograph with his moustache and who understood my kind of mathematics better than anyone else in those pre-computer days. Runge was born 99 years before me on August 30, 1856 and was later appointed at Göttingen as Germany’s first Professor of Applied Mathematics.

[10 January 2022]

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