University of Galway mathematical science student wins prestigious Hamilton Prize

Danny McCoy, CEO, IBEC, University of Galway student and Hamilton Prize recipient, James Hayes, with Dr Mary Canning, President of the Royal Irish Academy.
Mar 06 2023 Posted: 12:46 GMT

Fourth year Mathematical Science student at University of Galway, James Hayes, has been awarded the prestigious 2022 Hamilton Prize.

Mr Hayes is one of nine students to have been honoured by the Royal Irish Academy, which gives the prize to the top mathematical students in their penultimate year of study, as nominated by their university.

The award commemorates famed Irish scientist William Rowan Hamilton and his discovery of quaternion algebra in Dublin on October 16, 1843 – a four dimensional number system which has been used in satellite navigation and video game programming. 

In recognition of his mathematical excellence, James Hayes received a cash prize of €500, a certificate of achievement and attended an exclusive masterclass with the 2022 Hamilton Lecture speaker, Professor Avi Wigderson, of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

James Hayes, who is originally from Knockcroghery, Co Roscommon, said: "It was a great honour for me to receive the Hamilton Prize. I have had a passion for mathematics as long as I can remember, going back to my secondary school days in CBS Roscommon. I found the Hamilton Day masterclass with Professor Avi Wigderson, and chaired by University of Galway's own Dr Rachel Quinlan, particularly insightful. I would like to thank the RIA for organising the event, IBEC for their generous sponsorship of it, Professor Wigderson and Dr Quinlan for their generosity with their time, and the School of Mathematics at the University of Galway for their continuous support."

Professor Cathal Seoighe, Head of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at University of Galway, said: “I am delighted for James Hayes that he is this year’s winner of the Hamilton Prize for University of Galway. The prize is awarded to the best undergraduate mathematics students across the country and is a testament to James’ consistently excellent performance in his studies. James joins a long and talented list of Hamilton Prize winners in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences and we feel very fortunate to have been able to attract these incredibly talented students and always look forward to seeing where their studies will take them next.” 

Hamilton Day commemorates a ground-breaking discovery by one of Ireland’s most famous scientist. On October 16 1843, William Rowan Hamilton discovered quaternion algebra, while walking along the Royal Canal from Dunsink Observatory to the Royal Irish Academy. This was one of those very rare Eureka moments in the history of science. So excited was he by his discovery that he scratched his equation on the wall of Broome Bridge, Cabra.

Hamilton’s discovery of quaternions was important in the development of modern abstract algebra and the quaternions remain useful in calculating rotations of solid bodies and are thus important in satellite navigation and video game programming.


Marketing and Communications Office


Featured Stories