Person: Wrinch, Dorothy Maud
Dorothy Maud Wrinch was an Argentinian-English-American mathematician and biochemist famous for her use of mathematical techniques to deduce protein structure.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Although Dorothy was born in Argentina, Ada and Hugh were British and they returned to Surbiton, which is 19 km southwest of central London, where Dorothy was brought up.
- Let us give some details of Dorothy's parents to understand how she came to be born in Argentina.
- Hugh Wrinch was born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, attended Woodbridge Grammar School, then worked for the firm of Whitmore & Binyon who made steam engines and mills of all different types.
- Rosario benefitted greatly from Hugh Wrinch's work in heading a project to provide running water to the houses of the town.
- Dorothy Wrinch began her education at Surbiton High School in January 1899.
- Wrinch gained certificates in History, English, Mechanics, French, Latin, Mathematics (elementary) and Mathematics (advanced).
- Many students took two years before taking these examinations and Wrinch might have been better to have followed that route.
- She was much influenced by Bertrand Russell's work and she studied this on her own, sometimes corresponding with Russell who had been appointed as a lecturer at Cambridge three years before Wrinch began to study there.
- Russell's ideas on mathematical logic were a major influence on Wrinch and she also strongly supported his anti-war beliefs.
- In June 1916 Wrinch met Russell for the first time.
- All was not lost since he invited Wrinch and three other students to study privately with him in London.
- After a while G H Hardy agreed to become Wrinch's official research supervisor, although Russell would continue to unofficially advise her, and Hardy persuaded Girton College to award Wrinch a stipend to cover her expenses for a year of research.
- In 1917 Wrinch also wrote the essay Transfinite types which was considered for Girton College's Gamble Prize.
- Wrinch was awarded the Gamble Prize.
- During this time, as well as undertaking research for her doctorate, Wrinch was working closely with Harold Jeffreys.
- In their views of probability they were influenced by William Ernest Johnson, whose lectures Wrinch had attended, and John Maynard Keynes.
- Jeffreys continued to work on these topics and always acknowledged that it was built on his joint work with Wrinch.
- Also while working for her doctorate, in 1921 Wrinch joined the British Committee on Mathematical Tables.
- After her marriage Wrinch moved to Oxford where she taught mathematics at different women's colleges.
- A measure of her research activity during this period is that from 1918 to 1932 Wrinch published twenty papers on pure and applied mathematics, and sixteen papers on scientific methodology and the philosophy of science.
- This remarkable work led to Wrinch being awarded a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to support her study of the application of mathematics to biological molecular structures.
- Pauling and Wrinch engaged in an increasingly acrimonious debate through the pages of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
- Wrinch blamed Pauling for her difficulty in finding an academic position in the United States after immigrating there in 1939.
- By 1939 the world was moving towards war and Wrinch offered to work for the British war effort.
- By the time that Wrinch had emigrated to the United States her marriage had been dissolved (this happened in 1938).
- Wrinch held the Fellowship until she retired in 1971 when she went to Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
- After emigrating to the United States, Wrinch focused on the application of mathematical principles to the interpretation of X-ray crystallographic data of complex crystal structures.
- A meeting between von Neumann, Langmuir, Wrinch and A D Booth did indeed take place in Schenectady on Wednesday 16 April 1947.
- The end of Wrinch's life was much sadder than this quote tells us and we should relate the tragic circumstances.
Born 12 September 1894, Rosario, Argentina. Died 11 February 1976, Falmouth, Massachusetts, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Argentina, Women
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive