Randolph-Macon mathematics professor Adrian Rice has been presented with the George Pólya Award by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) at their annual MathFest summer meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The award, established in 1976, is given to authors of articles of expository excellence published in the MAA’s College Mathematics Journal.
Rice was recognized for his paper “Why Hamilton Couldn’t Multiply Triples”, which he co-authored with Virginia Tech professor Ezra Brown in 2021.
“Rice and Brown guide their readers through the development of quaternions, using some interesting mathematics including college algebra, number theory and linear algebra, and providing just enough background in each case to make this an interesting and accessible article. It could provide the seed for student projects in many undergraduate mathematics courses, from history to number theory. The exposition is smooth, engaging, and easily captures the interest of the reader,” a citation read at the awards ceremony stated.
Rice has now won prizes for articles he has published in every one of the MAA’s four journals. In 2007, he received the MAA’s Trevor Evans Award for Outstanding Expository Writing for an article he co-wrote with R-MC mathematics professor Eve Torrence for Math Horizons on the mathematics of Lewis Carroll. He received the Trevor Evans Award again in 2010 for another Math Horizons article entitled “Gaussian Guesswork (or Why 1.19814023473559220744… is Such a Beautiful Number).” In 2013, he won the MAA’s Carl B. Allendoerfer Award for the paper “Why Ellipses are not Elliptic Curves” (co-authored with Ezra Brown), published in Mathematics Magazine. And in 2019, he received the Paul R. Halmos–Lester R. Ford Award for his paper “Partnership, Partition, and Proof: The Path to the Hardy–Ramanujan Partition Formula,” which was published in The American Mathematical Monthly.
Rice is the Dorothy and Muscoe Garnett Professor of Mathematics and the chair of the Department of Mathematics. He earned his B.S. in mathematics from University College London and his Ph.D. in the history of mathematics from Middlesex University, joining the RMC faculty in 1999. His research at RMC focuses on 19th-century and early 20th-century mathematics. His publications include Mathematics Unbound: The Evolution of an International Mathematical Research Community, 1800–1945 (edited with Karen Hunger Parshall), The London Mathematical Society Book of Presidents, 1865–1965 (written with Susan Oakes and Alan Pears), Mathematics in Victorian Britain (edited with Raymond Flood and Robin Wilson), and Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist (written with Christopher Hollings and Ursula Martin).
Rice is a two-time recipient of RMC’s Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching (2003 and 2014), and he was also awarded the MAA’s John Smith Award for Distinctive College or University Teaching in 2013. He was elected a corresponding member of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences in 2019.