Purpose of this page

The purpose of this page it to collect together in one place information about the history of the Southern California Topology Conference/Colloquium. Such information is actively solicited. This information could be: the date and location of a meeting, lists of speakers, stories about past conferences, etc. Please contact dannyc at caltech dot edu.

Early days

In the late 60's, there were few topologists in Southern California. There was no email, and long-distance travel was relatively expensive. The few topologists in Southern California at the time felt a strong need for interpersonal interaction. This group included Bob Edwards (UCLA), Bob Brown (UCLA), Ken Millett (UCSB), David Rector (Irvine), Chuck Naylor (UCSD), and a few others.

The first Southern California Topology Colloquium was held in the summer of 1971 at UCSD(1). Another memorable early meeting was at UCSB in 1973. Meetings were held on a regular basis, usually on Tuesdays, and roughly once per month. The participants would arrive after lunch, have two talks: always one on geometric topology, and one on algebraic topology, and then go out to dinner before heading home (Love's Barbeque was a frequent dinner destination). One of the last meetings in this format was held in Spring 1981, which is remembered for talks by Bill Meeks and Mike Freedman.

The SCTC was an important element in the topologists calendar, and there is some evidence that it contributed to the influx of topologists into Southern California in the 70's (for example, Marty Scharlemann UCSB(2)).

The 80's

In the early 80's, the format of the SCTC shifted. The meetings were now held on the weekend, the frequency went down to once per quarter or so, and a third talk on a "lighter" topic, was added to the format. A notorious example was a talk by Bruce Bennet (UCSB) on the topology of vision. Bruce went on to discuss his theory with the Dalai Lama, a meeting which he described as having a big influence on his life.

The SCTC remained active throughout much of the 80's. David Gabai came to Caltech in 1985, and Ron Stern came to Irvine in 1989, and both became involved in the conference on a regular basis.

The 90's

The frequency of meetings began to fall off in the late 80's and the 90's, becoming semi-annual, then annual. The conference was truly regional, being held (at least) in places such as UCSB, UCLA, UCSD, UCR, USC, Caltech, and San Luis Obispo.

During this period, the conference was frequently held at Caltech. At such meetings, it was usually organized by Dave Gabai, with a party afterwards, usually held at Francis Bonahon's house(3).

What is N?

According to google, the 92nd SCTC was held on April 29, 2000 at UC Riverside. Igor Belegradek's CV documents the existence of a SCTC in Pasadena on May 12, 2001, and a poster confirms that this was the 93rd SCTC. When I arrived at Caltech in 2002, I started holding SCTC's on an irregular schedule; the first was the Nth SCTC; hence I conjecture that N=94, but I welcome information to the contrary(4).

Colloquium versus Conference

When I arrived at Caltech, I was under the mistaken impression that the second "C" in SCTC stood for "Conference". I therefore started hosting Southern California Topology Conferences (instead of Colloquia).

List of past conferences(5)


(1) According to Bob Edwards (personal communication, January 2009). Ron Stern remembered the first meeting being at Santa Barbara in 1973

(2) According to Marty Scharlemann (personal communication, January 2009); but I don't think he was entirely serious.

(3) The tradition of holding a party after the conference was revived in 2009. A party was held at my house (which had been Dave's house when he was at Caltech), with food supplied by Francis Bonahon.

(4) Bob Edwards (personal communication, January 2009) was skeptical of this precise figure, and speculated that Dave Gabai had made it up at some point. But he admitted that it was probably somewhere in the right ballpark.

(5) Jim Hoste supplied many of these details (personal communication, January 2009)

(6) Francis Bonahon (personal communication, January 2009). Francis remembers the UCI campus at that time as a giant puddle of mud, and that the SCTC took place in a trailer.

(7) Dinner at Ron Stern's house