Person: Cartwright, Dame Mary Lucy
Mary Cartwright was the first woman mathematician to be elected to the Royal Society. She became Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Mary had four siblings: John (born about 1896), Nigel (born about 1898), Jane (born about 1905) and William (born about 1907).
- When she was eleven years old, Mary Cartwright was sent away to school, first attending Leamington High School, then later attending the Godolphin School in Salisbury.
- When she was encouraged in her studies of mathematics in her final year at school, Mary realised that it was a topic where one could succeed without the long hours of learning facts.
- In October 1919 Cartwright entered St Hugh's College in Oxford to study mathematics.
- The lecture halls were crowded and often Cartwright had to copy up notes of lectures which she could not get into because of the crowds.
- It was not only Cartwright who had found the crowded conditions hard, for there were very few first class awards that year.
- This did nothing, however, to stop a deep sense of disappointment at failing to get the first class that she had aimed for, and Cartwright seriously considered giving up mathematics altogether and returning to her first love of history.
- Having made her decision to complete the mathematics honours course, Cartwright was fortunate to meet a fellow student V C Morton.
- Cartwright went on to be awarded a first class degree in Final Honours, and graduated from Oxford in 1923.
- Cartwright then taught in schools for four years before returning to Oxford to read for her D.Phil.
- This second post also carried with it a position of assistant mistress and Cartwright soon found that she was being diverted from teaching by the administration.
- Having no room to experiment led Cartwright to feel discontent with her career.
- In 1930 Cartwright was awarded a Yarrow Research Fellowship and she went to Girton College, Cambridge, to continue working on the topic of her doctoral thesis.
- Her theorem, now known as Cartwright's Theorem, gave an estimate for the maximum modulus of an analytic function which takes the same value no more than ppp times in the unit disc.
- Cartwright's work describes, among other things, deep and delicate phenomena which can appear near fractal boundaries, and has found new applications in this field.
- Cartwright was appointed, on the recommendation of both Hardy and Littlewood, to an assistant lectureship in mathematics in Cambridge in 1934, and she was appointed a part-time lecturer in mathematics the following year.
- They asked the London Mathematical Society if they could help find a mathematician who could work on these problems and Cartwright became interested in their memorandum.
- The dynamics which lay behind the problems was unfamiliar to Cartwright and so she approached Littlewood for help with this aspect.
- Cartwright was appointed Mistress of Girton in 1948 then, in addition, a Reader in the Theory of Functions in Cambridge in 1959, holding this appointment until 1968.
- Cartwright was President of the London Mathematical Society in 1961-62 becoming the first woman president, and until now the only woman president.
- In 1969 she received the distinction of being honoured by the Queen, becoming Dame Mary Cartwright, Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
- It was a wonderful experience to see the sparkle in Cartwright's eyes.
- Stanley Spencer's portrait of her will convey to future generations at Girton some idea of Dame Mary as scholar and administrator, but they may miss the warm sense of humour and sympathy that her friends knew.
Born 17 December 1900, Aynho, Northamptonshire, England. Died 3 April 1998, Cambridge, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin England, Women
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive