C. T. C. Wall bigraphy, stories - British mathematician

C. T. C. Wall : biography

14 December 1936 -

Charles Terence Clegg ("Terry") Wall (born 14 December 1936 in Bristol, England) is a leading British mathematician, educated at Marlborough and Trinity College, Cambridge. He is an emeritus professor of the University of Liverpool, where he was first appointed Professor in 1965. From 1978 to 1980 he was the President of the London Mathematical Society.

Personal life

Terry Wall has been married to Sandra Hearnshaw since 1959, and they have four children together. He was the treasurer of the Wirral area SDP from 1985 until its merger with the then Liberal Party in 1988. Terry Wall continued on as treasurer of the newly formed Wirral West Liberal Democrats and, as of August 2010, was still their treasurer. Terry Wall has been an LEA appointed governor of West Kirby Grammar School since 1987. He has also held the post of treasurer at Hoylake Chamber Concert Society since 2000.


His early work was in cobordism theory in algebraic topology; this includes his 1959 Cambridge Ph.D thesis entitled "Algebraic aspects of cobordism", written under the direction of Frank Adams and Christopher Zeeman. His research was then mainly in the area of manifolds, particularly geometric topology and related abstract algebra included in surgery theory, of which he was one of the founders. In 1964 he introduced the Brauer–Wall group of a field. His 1970 research monograph "Surgery on Compact Manifolds" is a major reference work in geometric topology.

In 1971 he conjectured that every finitely generated group is accessible. This conjecture is known as "Wall's conjecture". It motivated much progress in the understanding of splittings of groups. In 1985 Martin J. Dunwoody proved the conjecture for the class of finitely presented groups. The resolution of the full conjecture took until 1991 when, surprising to most mathematicians at the time, Dunwoody found a finitely generated group that is not accessible and hence the conjecture turned out to be not correct in its general formulation.

Wall's work since the mid-1970s has mostly been in singularity theory as developed by R. Thom, J. Milnor and V. Arnold, and especially concerns the classification of isolated singularities of differentiable maps and of algebraic varieties. He has written two research monographs on singularity theory, "The Geometry of Topological Stability" (1989) (containing a great deal of original work) with Andrew du Plessis, and "Singular Points of Plane Curves" (2004).

His notable students include Bill Bruce, Andrew Casson, Francis E A Johnson, David Mond, Andrew du Plessis, and Mark Roberts.


  • 1965 – Berwick Prize
  • 1966 – Invited address at the 1966 ICM in Moscow
  • 1969 – Elected Fellow of the Royal Society
  • 1970 – Invited address at the 1970 ICM in Nice
  • 1976 – Senior Whitehead Prize
  • 1988 – Pólya Prize
  • 1988 – Sylvester Medal
  • 1990 – Elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
  • 2000 – Elected Honorary Member of the Irish Mathematical Society
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