Person: Bates, David Robert
David Bates was an Irish mathematician and physicist who worked on atmospheric physics, molecular physics and the chemistry of interstellar clouds.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- David Shera was Land Agent for Lord Justice Ross.
- Only one of his three older siblings survived beyond being a baby, namely Margaret (Peggy) Bates.
- Realising that David required better educational prospects than Omagh could offer, his parents decided to make a considerable sacrifice.
- Once in Belfast, the nine year old Bates continued his education at the Inchmarlo Preparatory School.
- The emphasise that the school put on sport meant that Bates was not happy at the school.
- Their excellent teaching quickly persuaded Bates to give up his notions about studying chemistry and he graduated in 1937 with a First Class degree in both Experimental Physics and Mathematical Physics.
- Harrie Massey suggested that, for a Master's degree, Bates should work with his fellow student Joseph John Unwin.
- The thesis, Recombination in the upper atmosphere, involved much heavy computation which was shared by Bates and Unwin.
- Bates was awarded an M.Sc. in 1938 and, after Richard Arthur Buckingham (1911-1994) had used different methods to check the results of the thesis, it was published in 1939, becoming Bates' first publication.
- In autumn 1938 Harrie Massey was appointed to the Goldschmid Chair of Applied Mathematics at University College, London and he took Bates, his most promising researcher, to University College with him.
- Bates registered as a Ph.D. student at University College London and worked on his thesis advised by Massey.
- He took with him a number of young scientists from University College including Bates and Buckingham.
- Bates became Chairmen of the Research Committee on Mechanical Engineering Problems.
- Francis Crick, who along with James Watson determined the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953, worked with Bates during the war.
- When the war ended Bates and Massey returned to University College London.
- Bates never completed his doctoral dissertation; the opportunity had passed and by this time he was too much of an established researcher to require a Ph.D. He was appointed as a Lecturer in Mathematics at University College in 1945.
- Together with two research students, Bates produced many important research papers applying mathematical techniques in the study of the ionised regions of the Earth's atmosphere.
- The year 1950 was important for Bates who took study leave and spent the year in Pasadena, California, where he began a collaboration with Marcel Nicolet, but also was able to visit Princeton University where he wrote an important paper The density of molecules in interstellar space in collaboration with Lyman Spitzer.
- It was during his year in the United States that Bates began to wear a red tie and red socks, something which became his trademark attire from that time on.
- In 1951 Bates was awarded a D.Sc. by University College London and made a Reader in Physics there.
- David Bates was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1955.
- At Queen's University Belfast Bates taught courses extremely successfully at all levels.
- In the classes for those specialising in applied mathematics, David took the time to speak individually to every one of the students and to discuss their progress.
- They may not have recognised it at the time, but David was motivated by his concern that they achieve their full potential and he also wished to ensure that any failure to do so was not caused by neglect on his part or lack of diligence and commitment on theirs.
- For his services to science and education Bates was knighted in 1978 becoming 'Professor Sir David Bates'.
- Bates was strongly opposed to referring to his students as 'Catholics' and 'Protestants' using instead the phrase 'nourished by our two different traditions'.
- Bates wrote an influential letter to The Times concerning the Alliance Party and served as its Vice-President for the rest of his life.
- After his retirement in 1982, QUB named the building which houses the Theoretical and Computational Physics Research Division, the David Bates Building.
Born 18 November 1916, Omagh, County Tyrone, Ireland. Died 5 January 1994, Belfast, Ireland.
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