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The history of the Department went as far back as 1929, when Raffles College first opened its doors. The then science faculty offered courses in Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics, with a population of ten students and three faculty members including one in mathematics. The first Head of the Department of Mathematics (from 1931 to 1959) was Professor Alexander Oppenheim, who was a student of G. H. Hardy but received his PhD from the University of Chicago, and also of the Oppenheim Conjecture fame. From 1929, major developments followed in the educational system of Singapore, leading eventually to the establishment of the National University of Singapore (NUS) with the merger of the University of Singapore and Nanyang University in 1980. During this period, the Department expanded its undergraduate and research programmes, but both remained relatively small.

With the formation of NUS, the Department entered a new era. As a result of the merger, the Department acquired a staff strength of about 35. New campus in Kent Ridge, transfer of faculties and departments were completed in 1986. Since then, the Department has experienced extraordinary growth, in the breadth and scale of its undergraduate programmes, in the depth and vibrancy of its postgraduate programmes, and in the steadily increasing research capacity and reputation of its faculty.

A narrative of the Department’s history until the 1980s can be found here (courtesy of Professor Peng Tsu Ann). See also Fifty Years of Mathematics in Singapore: A Personal Perspective, written in 2016 by Professor Chong Chi Tat (courtesy of World Scientific).

A comprehensive account of the Department’s history and milestones (1929-2015) can be viewed here.