John Macleod Ball was born in Farnham, Surrey, U.K., in 1948. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Mathematics from the university of Cambridge in 1969 and his D.Phil in Mechanical Engineering in 1972 from the University of Sussex. He did his postdoctoral research fellowship at Heriot Watt university in Scotland and at Brown university in the U.S.A. Between 1974-1996 he was at Heriot Watt university where he became Professor of Applied Analysis. Since 1996, he has been Sedleian professor of natural philosophy at Oxford. He is director of Oxford Centre for Nonlinear Partial Differential Equations and fellow of the queen’s college at the university of Oxford.
Professor Sir John Ball has fundamental mathematical contributions to nonlinear partial differential equations, the calculus of variations and their applications to materials science and liquid crystals. He has pioneering work giving the first global existence theorems for energy minimizing configurations in nonlinear elasticity under realistic hypotheses on the material response and the first rigorous treatment of non-interpenetration of matter and cavitation in solids. He worked with Richard James to develop the widely used mathematical theory of martensitic phase transformations and their microstructure as well as a theory of metastability based on geometric incompatibility of parent and product phases. He is well known for his groundbreaking work on infinite-dimensional dynamical systems, in which his method is widely used for proving the existence of global attractors for nonlinear wave equations and other systems. His work on the Landau-de Gennes theory has greatly stimulated the worldwide study of mathematics of liquid crystals. In particular, his fundamental contributions with zarnescu to orientability of director configurations, and the satisfaction of eigenvalue constraints on the de Gennes Q-tensor with Majumdar.
He published over 70 articles, over 15 books and is a member of the editorial board of many reputable scientific journals. He is a member of several scientific societies and former president of the International Mathematical Union.
Professor Sir John Ball received many distinguished awards and honors including Keith Prize, Sylvester Medal and John von Neumann Prize. He was knighted in 2006 for his services to science.
Professor Sir John M. Ball, has been awarded the 2018 King Faisal Prize in Science for the topic of Mathematics for his fundamental and groundbreaking contributions to nonlinear partial differential equations, the calculus of variations, and dynamical systems. In these areas he developed revolutionary approaches that are widely used in mathematics today. His work applies deep mathematical insights to important real-life problems, pioneering applications in materials science. He introduced rigorous mathematical foundations for liquid crystals, phase transitions and nonlinear elasticity.
In addition to his scientific achievements, Professor Sir John Ball has served the wider scientific community in a leading advisory role to mathematical initiatives around the world.