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Fellows Directory

John Toland

John Toland

Professor John Toland FRS


Elected: 1999


John Toland specialises in theoretical aspects of nonlinear ordinary and partial differential equations that arise in mechanics, a particular interest being the mathematical description of water waves. His research involves variational, topological and real-analytical methods, as well as complex, harmonic and nonlinear functional analysis.

A significant achievement was the development, with others, of a rigorous mathematical theory of steady waves on water, and in particular the elucidation of the extreme wave — originally conjectured by Stokes in 1880. He also made fundamental contributions to abstract global bifurcation theory, non-convex optimization, dynamical systems, and the stability of rotating chains. He was awarded the London Mathematical Society’s Senior Berwick Prize in 2000 and the Royal Society’s Sylvester Medal in 2012.

John was Professor of Mathematics at the University of Bath from 1982–2011 and from 2002-2010 he was also Scientific Director of the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences. From 2011 to 2016 he was Director of the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge and a Fellow of St John’s College.

He chaired the Mathematical Sciences panel of REF 2014 and has been a member of the Executive Committee of the International Mathematical Union since 2010.

Professional positions

Visiting Professor, Department of Mathematics, King's College London
Honorary Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Bath

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Mathematics
    • Pure mathematics, Applied mathematics and theoretical physics


nonlinear partial differential equations, global bifurcation, nonlinear functional analysis, topological real-analytical methods, variational, water waves


  • Sylvester Medal

    For his original theorems and remarkable discoveries in nonlinear partial differential equations, including applications to water waves.

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