Howell Examines the Success of Algorithms

Dr. Russell Howell

Dr. Russell Howell

Russell Howell, Kathleen Smith professor of mathematics at Westmont, explores the power and success of mathematical algorithms in a free, public lecture Thursday, April 3, at 5:30 p.m. at University Club, 1332 Santa Barbara St. No tickets are required; the limited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, please call (805) 565-6051. The talk, “From Main Street to Wall Street: The Amazing Effectiveness of Mathematical Algorithms,” is part of Westmont Downtown: Conversations about Things that Matter, which is sponsored by the Westmont Foundation.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google and each with a new worth of more than $30 billion, created an algorithm to determine page ranks on a search engine, changing the Web and how we use it. “But that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg,” Howell says. “In fact, mathematical theories are used today in applications that defy belief.”

Howell, who has taught mathematics at Westmont for 36 years, will gear his talk for a non-mathematical audience. He will show how many ideas in mathematics have produced practical, and often invisible, effects on our day-to-day activities, such as using credit cards in a secure way or booking airline reservations. He will also examine why mathematical theories, which are generated primarily out of aesthetic criteria, are so successful in their applicability to the physical world.

He co-edited and contributed to a book, “Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith,” which examines the connections between math and faith. He also coauthored a popular textbook, “Complex Analysis for Mathematics and Engineering,” which is in its sixth edition.

Howell, a graduate of Wheaton College, earned a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and a doctorate from Ohio State University. He has been Teacher of the Year at Westmont College in 1999 and 1984.