Although interest in numbers is as old as civilization itself, much about them is still not understood, and some of the oldest and most elementary sounding problems concerning them are still unsolved.
Prof. Surindar M. Uppal made the revelation, Thursday, March 31, when he addressed students, faculty and the members of the public who congregated at the JKUAT Main Campus, Juja, during his well-attended Public Lecture Presentation: “The World of Numbers is Really Fascinating.”
Illuminating on the peculiarity of the number theory, the Professor of Mathematics further argued that while its major theorems can often be stated in terms that anyone could understand, their proofs – where they exist – require deep, complex mathematics, noting that “despite great advances made in mathematics over the last forty centuries…mathematicians are nowhere close to understanding the integers, let alone the other kinds of numbers!”
After posing the question: can numbers be finally conquered? Prof Uppal concurred with Hungarian number theorist Paul Erdos who observed that “It will take one million years at least before even prime numbers are finally understood! This, Prof Uppal said, is a long time considering that Mathematics as a discipline is less than 4000 years old.
Prof. Uppal who holds a PhD in Riemannian Geometry, began his University teaching career in 1975 at Kenyatta University, and rose through the ranks to Senior Lecturer, and later elevated to position of Associate Professor at JKUAT in 1993, where he earned the position of full professor in 1996.
Prof. Uppal’s family led by his wife Mrs. Krishna Kumari Uppal and their son, Mr. Rabi Uppal made generous financial donations to ten (10) needy students to support their education at JKUAT.
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs) Prof. Romanus Odhiambo, who represented Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga said, “Prof. Uppal has over the years been actively involved in the academic life of the University, and has been consistent since his days as an associate professor, professor and published author.”
Prof. Odhiambo challenged other scholars to emulate Prof. Uppal, noting, the public lecture would remain a continuing aspect of engaging the academic community. He further appreciated former JKUAT Vice Chancellor Prof. Ratemo Michieka who attended the lecture for his support to the university.
In her welcoming remarks, Deputy Vice Chancellor in Charge of Research, Production and Extension (RPE), Prof. Esther Kahangi, under whose auspices the public lecture was organized, observed that the public lecture came at a time the country is in dire need of players in academia to engage in discourse on matters affecting the society.
“…Every day, we observe many cases where the general population engage in deliberations that should ideally be (informed by rich background knowledge and meticulous research in particular areas of study.
However, Prof. Kahangi regretted that “Oftentimes, the academia is conspicuously absent in these discussions, leading to warped conclusions based on personal or group interests, and, many times, seriously flawed and potentially harmful decision-making.”
Chairperson, Department of Pure and Applied Mathematics (PAM) Dr. Jotham Akanga, paid tribute to Prof Uppal terming him “a beacon of knowledge and source of inspiration for the young and the old scholars.” He also appreciated Mrs. Krishna Kumari Uppal, the wife of Prof. Uppal “for assisting 10 needy students financially, and, for nurturing the great professor who has put PAM and JKUAT on the academic world map.” He praised students, staff and other stakeholders for playing a critical role that culminated in the success of the function.
Prof. Uppal’s lecture which is the first in a series of presentations to be hosted by the RPE Division, seek to provide an engaging intellectual discourse space on various pertinent issues of interest to the society. Distinguished luminaries across the disciplines will share their knowledge and experiences on critical issues that are dear to people especially at the grassroots.
Several universities were represented including Kenyatta, Maasai Mara, Meru, Dedan Kimathi, Technical University of Mombasa. Visa Oshwal Academy, Members of the Samuj Hindu Community, New Age Golden Publishers, the Asian Weekly attended the function as well as JKUAT students and faculty.