The Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Pretoria is not only one of the largest departments on the Hatfield Campus, but also one of the largest Mathematics departments in the country. It grew from humble beginnings in 1913, with only 38 students, to a department with more than 20 000 students enrolled for mathematics modules. The diverse and competent body of staff, including over 30 NRF rated researchers, boasts expertise in a variety of fields. The department prides itself in excelling in both its teaching and research activities, as well in community-based activities.
Physically, the department is situated on the western side of the campus of the University of Pretoria. The building has a classical old-time character that surrounds a quad where the bustle of students adds vibrancy. A newer feature is that of an enclosed garden that provides a popular venue for outdoor functions. The singular environment is complemented by a tangible academic atmosphere in which many UP graduates have reached success.
With the inception of the University of Pretoria in 1908, Mathematics and Physics formed one department. Mathematics and Applied Mathematics was mainly taught by ETG Sherwood who was subsequently promoted to professor in Applied Mathematics. He was a colourful character and even had a small observatory in a zinc shack where the Merensky Library is today.
In 1912, a chair in Mathematics was requested and in 1913, Prof AE du Toit became Head of Mathematics while Applied Mathematics was still part of Physics. Prof Du Toit became Principal in 1929 but returned to the Department after five years. Four years later, he presented himself as candidate for the “Purified” National Party, without success. After that he went to farm in Natal, but still remained active in politics.
Prof JP Duminy, apparently a very strict lecturer, acted as Head of the Department of Mathematics during Prof Du Toit’s period as Principal and then became the Head of the Department of Applied Mathematics and in 1938 the Head of the Department of Mathematics. He resigned in 1941 to become Head of the Pretoria Technical College.
He was succeeded by Dr JS de Wet who resigned in 1946 to accept a research professorship in Oxford. Prof C Jacobz was appointed in his place, also acting as Head of the Technical Section. He resigned in 1956 to accept a senior engineering position at the SA Iron and Steel Industrial Corporation.
Prof B de Loor then acted as Head of Department until Prof PJ Zietsman was appointed as Head of the Department of Mathematics in 1959. In 1982, Prof Zietsman was appointed as Dean after 23 years of being Head of Department. He was succeeded as Head by Prof Johan Swart.
Since 1941, the Department of Applied Mathematics grew to a commendable Department under Prof WF Beezhold. He was succeeded in 1974 by Prof Niko Sauer. In 1986, Prof Sauer was appointed as Dean and and the two Departments merged in the same year to become the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics with Prof Swart as Head.
Prof Swart stepped down in 2000 and was succeeded by Prof Anton Ströh who became Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences in 2004. He was succeeded by Prof Jean M-S Lubuma, until 31 July 2013 when he became the DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Mathematical Models and Methods in Bioengineering and Biosciences. In August 2013 Prof Roumen Anguelov succeeded him as Head of Department. Prof Anguelov, after two very productive terms as HOD retired in August 2021. Currently Prof Mapundi Banda is the head of the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics.