Gerald Beresford Whitham was one of the leading applied mathematicians of the twentieth century. His original, deep and insightful research into nonlinear wave propagation formed the foundation of and mathematical techniques for much of the current research in this area. Indeed, many of these ideas and techniques have spread beyond wave propagation research into other areas, such as reaction–diffusion, and has influenced research in pure mathematics. His textbook Linear and nonlinear waves, published in 1974, is still the standard reference for the mathematics of wave motion. Whitham was also instrumental in building from scratch the Department of Applied Mathematics at the California Institute of Technology and, through choosing key people in new, promising research areas, in making it into one of the leading centres of applied mathematics in the world, with an influence far beyond its small size. During his academic career, Whitham received major awards and prizes for his research. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1965 and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959, and was awarded the Norbert Wiener Prize for Applied Mathematics in 1980.
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