Person: Proudman, Joseph
Joseph Proudman was a mathematician who made major contributions to oceanography, particularly to the theory of tides. He was Professor of Applied Mathematics, then Professor of Oceanography at the University of Liverpool. He headed the Liverpool Tidal Institute, now called the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Joseph was baptised on 24 February 1889 in the Wesleyan-Methodist Chapel in Unsworth.
- In 1894, Joseph began his education at the primary school in Unsworth.
- Proudman's home in Bold Heath was about two and a half miles from Farnworth and Farnworth was a further four miles from Widnes so, between 1903 and 1907, he was walking about thirteen miles (about 21 km) on half the school days.
- The Derby scholarship funded further study and Proudman went to Trinity College, Cambridge for this.
- At Cambridge Proudman matriculated at Trinity College in 1910 and studied the Mathematical Tripos taking a wide range of subjects in pure mathematics, applied mathematics and mathematical physics.
- The courses on electric waves and on potential theory were delivered by Thomas J I'A Bromwich and it was from the courses by Herman and Bromwich, Proudman later wrote, that he learnt most.
- After taking the Tripos, Proudman was keen to undertake research in hydrodynamics and approached several of the people who had taught him.
- None seemed particularly keen to supervise research on the aspects which interested Proudman, and so he ought advice from Ernest Barnes who suggested he contact Horace Lamb at the University of Manchester.
- The first two of Proudman's paper's were published in 1913.
- We see that Lamb had set Proudman on the research path on which he spent the rest of his life.
- The paper related to ideas which Proudman had discussed with Bromwich while at Trinity College, and it was submitted to the Royal Astronomical Society by Bromwich.
- Frank Stanton Carey had been the Professor of Mathematics at the University of Liverpool since 1886 and he offered Proudman a lectureship soon after the results of the Tripos examinations were announced.
- Although he had to concentrate on teaching, research which Proudman had undertaken before taking up the lectureship at Liverpool led to publications in 1914.
- In 1919 Proudman succeed in encouraging two Liverpool shipowners to fund the establishment of the Liverpool Tidal Institute for the University of Liverpool and to provide funds to run it for the first five years.
- The University of Liverpool established a Chair of Applied Mathematics so that they could promote Proudman to a professorship and, in 1919, he was appointed as the first Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Liverpool.
- A significant step forward occurred in 1923 when Proudman was awarded the Adams Prize by the University of Cambridge for his Essay on the Tides.
- In 1924 Proudman and Doodson published the joint paper The Principal Constituent of the Tides of the North Sea, the first four sections being part of Proudman's Adams Prize Essay.
- In collaboration with Frank Stanton Carey, by this time the Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Liverpool, Proudman published the book The Elements of Mechanics in 1925.
- With Joseph Proudman as Director and Arthur Doodson as Associate Director, the Liverpool Observatory and Tidal Institute developed new methods for the analysis of tides and their prediction, and a second tide-predicting machine was acquired.
- it was Proudman's idea that the department should be converted to one of physical oceanography.
- In addition to widening his own research interests to include oceanic circulation and the distribution of temperature and salinity in oceans and seas, Proudman initiated observational work in the Irish Sea.
- To study turbulence and internal friction in a tidal current, Proudman and some colleagues purchased a fishing boat, the Zepyr which they converted into a research boat and crewed it themselves except for having one professional seaman.
- They resumed their research on turbulence and internal friction and, as a result, wrote several papers such as Proudman's On the mixing of sea-water by turbulence (1948) and (with K F Bowden) Observations on the turbulent fluctuations of a tidal current (1949).
- Proudman reached retirement age in 1954 and was made Professor Emeritus.
- We should record a few of the many honours which Proudman received.
- Since Prof Proudman was unable to be present in person, the medal was accepted in his behalf by Sir Alfred Egerton, secretary of the Royal Society of London.
Born 30 December 1888, Unsworth, near Bury, Lancashire, England. Died 26 June 1975, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, England.
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