Person: Macdonald (2), Hector Munro
Hector Macdonald graduated from Aberdeen and Cambridge Universities. He stayed on at Cambridge and won the Adams prize. He returned to Aberdeen as Professor. He did important work on electromagnetic waves.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- After arriving in Fearn, Hector attended the local school before attending the Royal Academy in Tain which is no more than a small village about 5 km north west of Fearn.
- As many Scottish mathematicians of this era, Macdonald proceeded to Cambridge to take the Mathematical Tripos after completing his first degree in Scotland.
- Macdonald began his research career at Cambridge working on topics in pure mathematics.
- Macdonald submitted an essay Electric waves which won the 1901 Adams Prize and was published in the following year.
- We will give some details below concerning the main question and theory produced by Macdonald concerning wireless signals, but for the moment we continue to describe his career.
- In 1907 Macdonald was appointed to the Court of Aberdeen University and he remained on this administrative body for the rest of his life.
- Macdonald held his fellowship at Clare College until 1908 but in 1914 he was awarded an honorary fellowship of his former College.
- Macdonald worked on electric waves and solved difficult problems regarding diffraction of these waves by summing series of Bessel functions.
- About the time that Macdonald published his prize winning essay on electric wave, Guglielmo Marconi was successful in the transmission of the first wireless signals across the Atlantic.
- The answer that Macdonald came up with is that the explanation is due to refraction.
- The answer, we now understand, is due to reflection of waves of particular wavelengths by the upper atmosphere but Macdonald's theory was an important step towards such an understanding.
Born 19 January 1865, Edinburgh, Scotland. Died 16 May 1935, Aberdeen, Scotland.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive