With the passing of Landon T. Clay on 29 July, Oxford Mathematics has lost a treasured friend whose committed support and generosity were key factors in the recent development of the Mathematical Institute. The support of Landon and his wife Lavinia was the indispensible mainstay of the project to create the magnificent new home for Oxford Mathematics in the Andrew Wiles Building; the building is a symbol of the enduring legacy of their insightful, incisive support for mathematics and science. Landon's membership of the University of Oxford's Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors also recognised the breadth of his support for many parts of the University, always with a sharp emphasis on supporting excellence.
Landon Clay was the Founder of the Clay Mathematics Institute, which has had a profoundly beneficial effect on the progress and appreciation of research into fundamental mathematics. He will perhaps be best remembered for his inspired creation of the Millennium Prizes: these have the crucial feature that they draw the public’s attention to the fundamental importance of the prize problems themselves, in contrast to the focus on the prize-winners as is the case with the other great prizes of mathematics.
The Clay Mathematics Institute, directed from the President’s Office in the Andrew Wiles Building, supports mathematical excellence in many other ways. In particular, the Clay Research Fellowships give the brightest young mathematicians in the world five years of freedom to develop their ideas free of financial concerns and institutional demands. The fruits of this programme can be implied from the fact that three of the four Fields Medallists at the International Congress in 2014 were former Clay Fellows.
The ramifications of Landon Clay’s generous and astutely directed support for mathematics will echo long into the future. A fuller account of his life and the range of his philanthropy can be found on the Clay Mathematics Institute website.
Photograph by Robert Schoen, 2004