Article for the Campus News (unabridged version)

by Franz-Viktor Kuhlmann, Salma Kuhlmann and Murray Marshall

In July and August of 1999, the University of Saskatchewan hosted the largest conference in Mathematics that ever took place in Saskatoon, with 100 participants from all over the world. This may not seem very large, but all the participants were researchers or graduate students, and most of them presented talks. What brought them to Saskatoon was their common interest in one particular area of algebra called valuation theory. No, this is not a theory in economics dealing with the evaluation of commercial enterprises. It is a mathematical theory which arose in the first decades of this century in connection with number theory, and has many important applications to other mathematical branches such as geometry and analysis. It is tightly connected to the most famous problem in geometry: the resolution of singularities, half of which remains unsolved till the present day. The world's specialists using valuation theory to attack this fascinating problem were present at the conference.

The conference was the first opportunity of this kind for researchers who use valuation theory in different branches of mathematics to meet each other and to discuss the common core of their research and the many open problems originating from it. Many found their way to Saskatoon from the far ends of the world: as far away as the Canary Islands, Novosibirsk, Iran, India, Rumania.

Thanks to the generous support by the U of S, the College of Arts and Science, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and the three Canadian Mathematical Institutes (Fields, CRM and PIMS), we were able to pay travel and/or living expenses for key participants from the Third World and Eastern Europe who could not have attended the conference otherwise.

With that much support, it was a pleasure to organize the conference. How well the U of S Catering Service can do was demonstrated by a wonderful banquet. Compared to the many conference banquets around the world we attended, ours was not even surpassed by a banquet held in the town hall of Vienna!

Have a look at the list of our sponsors and supporters which can be found on the conference web site at There you will also find the Valuation Theory Home Page, which gets valuation theorists connected all over the world. It puts Saskatoon on the map as the center for valuation theory.

One of the most famous Canadian number theorists and one of the "fathers of valuation theory" is Paulo Ribenboim from Queens University, Kingston. The conference was dedicated to him, on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Although almost blind, he delivered an enchanting public lecture on prime numbers. He introduced himself as "a former director of a factory for large primes". (Large primes indeed are of great importance for encoding messages, e.g., the one you send by email to an internet shop to tell them your credit card number.) Video tape copies of this talk will soon be available to be borrowed free of charge by everyone interested (just contact the Math Department). Paulo's visit and public lecture were generously supported by a U of S Special Lectureship grant. Also the publication of the conference proceedings will be supported by the U of S publication fund.

Another outstanding feature of the conference was its length. Tutorials, conference and workshop together took two and a half weeks. At the end, the participants (and organizers) were exhausted, but happy. They praised the exceptional beauty of the campus, the river, the city, and the nice excursions we were able to offer them.

Back to the Conference Web Page

Last update: October 16, 1999