Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
18 September 2019
Οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν“Like the generation of leaves, so are the generations of men”.That seems about right about all of us: we are like leaves not only in our mortality, but in our similarity. An alien looking superficially at all of us might conclude that we human beings are not strictly speaking individuals, but all really part of the same organism: like leaves connected by invisible twigs and branches. We look very much the same, we rustle together, we are blown about the same winds, and so on. However, the cultured appreciation of excellence of human living, our humanity, and our equality politically and under the law is distinct from vocational success. It would be a great mistake to assume that we – humans – are all equal intellectually and ignore that our vocational success does not produce inequalities. The reality is that universities are islands of aristocratic spirit and in them, there are unique individuals, who are most distinguished among us; we must honour and respect these unique individuals for their greatness. And this is what we are doing today; we are celebrating and honouring Professor Maini’s exceptional contributions to the field of mathematical and theoretical biology. There is no doubt that he has made and continues making a prominent difference to our academic community. Now you must be wondering, how do I know this? Let me illustrate it in the best way that an academic administrator can do: by counting contributions in a CV rather than reading them! Professor Maini has mentored over 85 doctoral and postdoctoral students in mathematical biology at the University of Oxford since 19901. To see what this looks like, I want to invite you to visit the poster with Professor Maini’s Mathematical Genealogy2. However, I also want you to imagine a typical annual meeting of the Society for Mathematical Biology. The average attendance for these meetings is approximately 400 participants; this means that Professor Maini has directly trained 20% of potential participants of an Annual Meeting of the Society for Mathematical Biology! 85 direct trainees is an impressive number, but I have to tell you that this is a lower bound estimate as many of his trainees are already well-established mathematical biologists, who have trained many others. Up to this point, there are over 140 direct and indirect descendants from Professor Maini.3 Professor Maini’s body of work is vast and includes more than 450 research publications in major scientific journals,4 with an h-index of 78,5 which is unusually high for any scientist, particularly a mathematical scientist! This high number of citations has placed him as one of the most Highly Cited Researchers in the world by 2014.6 His research has inspired significant new mathematics and new discoveries in biology. This isn’t surprising when you have published on average 13 papers per year, since you received your doctorate. Less than 3,270 scientists worldwide have had a publication output of 10 papers per year for more than 10 continuous years.7 If we put this into the context of the official journal of the Society for Mathematical Biology – The Bulletin of Mathematical Biology – Professor Maini’s contributions would be equivalent to nearly 8 years of papers of the Bulletin. Professor Maini has also provided extraordinary service to the mathematical biology community. He was an elected member to the Boards of the Society for Mathematical Biology and the European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology. For 14 years, he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. Through his extensive editorial activities (over 20 journals and book series), his memberships of conference organising committees and mini-symposia organisations (over 140), his serving on the advisory boards of several interdisciplinary centres worldwide (over 10), he has a major influence on research in the field of mathematical biology.8 He has also received numerous honours and awards for his major scientific contributions, such as the Naylor Prize and Lectureship, Foreign Fellow of the Mexican Academy of Science, Arthur T. Winfree Prize, and Fellow of the Royal Society to name few.9 It is difficult to summarize 35 years of accomplishments in a brief introductory remark, particularly from someone who is finding it dismally difficult to follow in the footsteps of his mentor. What I can tell is the following: in exceptional occasions, we can say that so many owe so much to one individual. This is one of them. On behalf of the Society for Mathematical Biology, its academic community, and all your descendants, collaborators, colleagues and friends, we are eternally grateful to you, Philip K. Maini, for all your contributions to mathematical biology, academia and especially our lives. It is a great pleasure to open this meeting, and from all the members of the mathematical biology here, and elsewhere, we wish you all A Very Happy Birthday to You!