Person: Britton, John Leslie
John Britton was an English mathematician who worked in combinatorial group theory and in particular on the word problem for groups.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Britton graduated from Hull in 1950, although at that time Hull could not award its own degrees and so Britton graduated with an external University of London degree.
- Britton took part in that seminar which served as his introduction to research in algebra.
- Britton then proceeded to study for a Master's degree at Hull, supervised by Hanna Neumann.
- Britton then proceeded to Manchester where Bernhard Neumann supervised his doctoral studies.
- After compulsory military service, Britton accepted a post at the University of Glasgow as a research fellow.
- Boone invited Britton to the University of Illinois for session 1960-61 and this proved an important event for Britton since it enabled his work to become widely known and hugely influential in combinatorial group theory.
- Britton was appointed Reader at the new University of Kent at Canterbury in 1966 and he remained there until he accepted the chair of Pure Mathematics at Queen Elizabeth College London in 1973.
- Britton remained in London for the rest of his career, retiring in 1988.
- Britton did not like to tackle numerous small mathematical problems.
- After making major contributions to word problems Britton turned his attention to the Burnside problem.
- However Novikov did not follow up the announcement with the expected published proof and Britton, suspecting correctly that Novikov's proof had run into difficulties, began to work on the Burnside problem himself.
- The publication of the proof would have persuaded most people to give up, but not so Britton.
- Sadly, however, Adian found an error in Britton's arguments.
- For John the matter was exceptionally unfortunate for he had spent a number of his prime mathematical years on the problem.
- Britton never really regained his mathematical confidence after this and was never again prepared to tackle major problems.
Born 18 November 1927, Cottingham (near Hull), England. Died 13 June 1994, Isle of Skye, Scotland.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Algebra, Group Theory, Origin England, Puzzles And Problems
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive