Peter Vámos - A lifetime dedicated to an enthusiasm for maths

Professor Peter Vámos displayed a love and prowess for mathematics throughout his life. His enthusiasm for the subject has been passed on to many through his teaching at Sheffield. The gift Professor Vámos left in his Will supports his legacy of outstanding contributions to mathematics.

Photo of Professor Peter Vamos for his obituary page

Growing up in Hungary, Peter showed a remarkable understanding of both maths and chemistry from a young age. After working for a period of time in a chemical factory, his passion for mathematics secured a place at Szeged University, allowing him to fulfil his life’s true calling.

Attracted by Sheffield’s reputation for excellence in algebra, in addition to a growing aversion to the Hungarian communist regime, Peter and his wife-to-be Kati decided to make Sheffield their home. The couple quickly settled into Sheffield life. Their Hungarian hospitality provided them with a wide circle of friends, and Peter’s intellect allowed him to begin building a career within British academia. Professor Douglas G. Northcott, Head of Pure Mathematics recognised and cultivated Peter’s love of algebra. 

Through this nurturing environment, Peter began his writing of scholarly publications and working at the University within the theory of modules over rings, usually commutative rings. He also largely contributed to developments in matroid theory, one such paper entitled ‘The missing axiom of matroid theory is lost forever’; leading Wikipedia to have an article about the ‘Vámos matroid’. He gained his PhD in 1979 from the University of Sheffield and became well known in certain mathematical fields, most notably, commutative algebra and combinatorics.

Photo portrait of Peter Vamos

Throughout his time at the University of Sheffield, Peter hosted famous Hungarian mathematician Paul Ernő and Peter’s own cousin Ernő Rubik, inventor of the Rubik's cube. In 1983, Peter left Sheffield to continue his work as Professor and Head of the Department of Pure Mathematics at the University of Exeter.

Following the death of his wife Kati several years prior, Peter sadly passed away in 2020. Having worked with the Council of London Mathematical Society for a number of years, Peter is remembered for the key role he played in the UK’s mathematical community. His infectious love for maths and the teaching of it will be remembered by many. The University of Sheffield would like to particularly recognise the £5,000 gift that he kindly leaves in his Will to the School of Mathematics and Statistics. This donation will create an annual award for the best overall performance on Pure Mathematics modules, including a pure mathematics related dissertation, for students on the MSc Mathematics course. Continuing his legacy of outstanding commitment to Mathematics. 

The University would like to express our thanks to Professor Rodney Sharp for the information and images he provided of Peter.

Leaving a gift in your Will

If you would like further information about leaving a gift to the University in your Will, please contact David Meadows.
David is our Philanthropy Manager for Legacies and Individual Giving and a Sheffield graduate himself. He would love to have a confidential chat with you about legacy giving or your specific wishes.

Telephone: 0114 222 1073