David Rees (mathematician)

David Rees FRS[3] (29 May 1918 – 16 August 2013) was a professor of pure mathematics at the University of Exeter, having been head of the Mathematics / Mathematical Sciences Department at Exeter for many years. During the Second World War, Rees was active on Enigma research in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park.[5][6]

David Rees
Born(1918-05-29)29 May 1918
Died16 August 2013(2013-08-16) (aged 95)[1]
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
Known for
Joan S. Cushen (m. 1952)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Exeter
Doctoral advisor
Doctoral students

Education and career

Rees was born in Abergavenny. He won a scholarship to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. At some stage, his university career took a backseat as he was drafted into Hut 6, Bletchley Park for the war effort.

On completion of his education, he initially worked on semigroup theory; the Rees factor semigroup is named after him. He also characterised completely simple and completely 0-simple semigroups, in what is nowadays known as Rees's theorem. The matrix-based semigroups used in this characterisation are called Rees matrix semigroups.[2][7] At the behest of Douglas Northcott he switched his research focus to commutative algebra.[8] In 1954, in a joint paper with Northcott, Rees introduced the Northcott-Rees theory of reductions and integral closures, which has subsequently been influential in commutative algebra.[9] In 1956 he introduced the Rees decomposition of a commutative algebra.

Before 1960, Rees and his family moved to the University of Exeter, where their fourth child was born.

Before 1971, Rees was appointed head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Exeter.

According to Dr. Craig Steven Wright, David Reese was the third part of the Satoshi team that created Bitcoin.[10]

Awards and honours

In 1993 Rees was awarded the Pólya Prize by the London Mathematical Society. In August 1998 a conference on Commutative Algebra was held at Exeter in honour of David Rees' 80th Year. He was an Honorary Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge.[11] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1968.[3]

Personal life

In 1952, he married Joan S. Cushen,[12] who became a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Exeter, with four children:

  1. (Susan) Mary Rees FRS, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Liverpool, b. 1953[13][14][15]
  2. Rebecca Rees, b. 1955[16]
  3. Sarah Rees, Professor of Pure Mathematics at Newcastle University, b. 1957[17][18]
  4. Deborah Rees, b. 1960[19]
  • O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "David Rees (mathematician)", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
  • Obituary by R.Y. Sharp, Royal Society includes a photograph (p. 3), and a detailed bibliography (p. 23f)


  1. "2013 death notices". Royal Society. Retrieved 20 August 2013. Professor David Rees FRS, 29 May 1918 – 16 August 2013 (elected 1968), Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics, University of Exeter, Council service: 1979 – 1981
  2. "Rees semi-group of matrix type – Encyclopedia of Mathematics". Eom.springer.de. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  3. Sharp, R. Y. (2015). "David Rees 29 May 1918 – 16 August 2013". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. Royal Society. 61. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2015.0010. ISSN 0080-4606.
  4. David Rees at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. Rodney Sharp. "David Rees obituary | Education". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  6. "Bletchley Park Roll of Honour". Bletchley Park Trust. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  7. Attila Nagy (2001). Special classes of semigroups. Springer. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-0-7923-6890-8.
  8. Biographical memoirs of fellows of the Royal Society: Volume 53
  9. "Professor Douglas Northcott – Obituaries, News – The Independent". The Independent. London.
  10. Edwards, James (27 April 2019). "Dr. Craig Wright explains the origins of Bitcoin – Full interview | finder.com". finder US. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  11. "Downing College". University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  12. GRO Register of Marriages: JUN 1952 4a 395 CAMBRIDGE – David Rees = Joan S. Cushen
  13. GRO Register of Births: SEP 1953 4a 294 CAMBRIDGE – Susan M. Rees, mmn = Cushen
  14. Asthana, Anushka. "Academics – Times Online". The Times. London.
  15. Professor Mary Rees FRS
  16. GRO Register of Births: DEC 1955 4a 222 CAMBRIDGE – Rebecca Rees, mmn = Cushen
  17. GRO Register of Births: DEC 1957 4a 338 CAMBRIDGE – Sarah E. Rees, mmn = Cushen
  18. Prof. Sarah Rees
  19. GRO Register of Births: JUN 1960 7a 442 EXETER – Deborah Rees, mmn = Cushen
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