In Memoriam Peter Borwein


PETER BORWEIN 1953 - 2020 It is with a deep sense of loss that we write that Peter Borwein passed away on Sunday, August 23, 2020. Jennie, his wife of 39 years, was by his side. We will remember Peter as an embarrassingly proud father; deeply loving husband; protective brother, uncle, and son; and faithful friend.

In 1980, at the age of 27, Peter started work as an assistant professor of mathematics at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  While he was there, he, his brother Jonathan Borwein and David H. Bailey of NASA wrote the 1989 paper that showed a proof for computing one billion digits of π. They won the 1993 Chauvenet Prize and Hasse Prize.

He later went on to become Professor and Burnaby Mountain Chair at Simon Fraser University (SFU). In 1995, the Borweins collaborated with Yasumasa Kanada of the University of Tokyo to compute π to more than four billion digits.

Borwein has developed an algorithm that applies Chebyshev polynomials to the Dirichlet eta function to produce a very rapidly convergent series suitable for high precision numerical calculations, which he published on the occasion of the awarding of an honorary doctorate to his brother, Jonathan.

Peter Borwein also collaborated with NASA's David Bailey and the Université du Québec's Simon Plouffe to calculate the individual hexadecimal digits of π. This provided a way for mathematicians to determine the nth digit of π without calculating preceding digits. In 2007 with Tamás Erdélyi, Ronald Ferguson, and Richard Lockhart he settled Littlewood's Problem 22.

Peter believed strongly in advancing interdisciplinary research; one of his proudest accomplishments was helping found and direct the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences (IRMACS) at SFU.

A well-rounded intellectual, Peter was a creative and prolific mathematician, a dedicated teacher, and a generous mentor, having advised 8 PhD students. But it was his relationships that made his life most meaningful. Charismatic and curious, he worked hard to keep the many friends he made. In return, he was loved by many; above all by his family, but also by his wide community of friends across continents and generations.

Peter died of pneumonia secondary to Multiple Sclerosis, a cruel illness he endured for over two decades, and bore with remarkable grace and courage. He was until the end smart, funny, mischievous, kind, interesting and interested. We will love and miss him always. We are forever grateful to the patient and kind caregivers who supported Peter over the years, and the wonderful staff on 3D at Burnaby Hospital, who cared for Peter in his final days.

A scholarship fund has been created in Peter's name to help us honour his life and accomplishments. Donations to the Peter Borwein Memorial Graduate Scholarship in Mathematics will provide financial aid to exceptional graduate students in SFU's Department of Mathematics who follow in Peter's path. Alternatively, please consider donating to the MS Society of Canada or the Burnaby Hospital Foundation in Peter's memory.

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