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Person: Etherington, Ivor Malcolm Haddon
Ivor Etherington was an English mathematician who worked on general relativity, and later on genetics and introduced genetic algebras.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- When he was seven, Ivor invented a meccano-based contraption for sending the cruets round the dining table.
- He was minister at College Road Baptist Church, Harrow, from 1915 and Ivor spent the next six years at Harrow.
- In 1922, Ivor was sent to Mill Hill School, North London, where he quickly developed a love for mathematics under the expert teaching of the Senior Mathematics Master, Herbert Coates.
- Ivor made a friend at Mill Hill, fellow pupil John Ffoulkes Edwards, who played an important role in Ivor's future career.
- Ivor himself, sometimes taught at the school.
- In 1927 Etherington matriculated at Hertford College, Oxford where he studied mathematics.
- Etherington was a first class student in the examinations at the end of his first year but after this his time to study became restricted because he became Secretary of the Hertford College branch of the Student Christian Movement.
- At this stage, although Etherington had hoped for an academic career, he felt that his performance in the final examinations would mean that he stood no chance.
- However, his tutor Bill Ferrar saw that Etherington had mathematical talents far beyond what his Second Class degree indicated, and contacted Edmund Whittaker in Edinburgh recommending Etherington for research towards a Ph.D. in the general theory of relativity advised by Whittaker.
- Using very unsophisticated mathematical tools and concepts (normal coordinates and the very notion of tensorial invariance), Etherington managed to prove what is nowadays called the 'reciprocity theorem for null geodesics', which states, roughly speaking, that many geometric properties are invariant when the roles of the observer and the source are exchanged in astronomical observations, this holding in any general space-time, regardless of its geometry.
- After the award of his doctorate, Etherington was appointed to Chelsea Polytechnic where he taught for the year 1932-33.
- The Etheringtons, with the help of anyone else they could involve, managed to effect the escape of some 32 people from Germany.
- Etherington's friendship with Ffoulkes Edwards was to set the path for his research for the rest of his career.
- Ffoulkes Edwards was studying medicine at University College Hospital, London and after he took up his lectureship in Edinburgh, Etherington began a long correspondence with him on blood group inheritance.
- The importance of this work for Etherington's future research was that it led him to study non-associative algebras which he called genetic algebras.
- The construction of genetic algebras has been described in a somewhat abstract way in a previous paper (Etherington, 1939), ....
- Etherington was awarded a D.Sc. in 1941 for his thesis Researches in non-associative algebra.
- As well as genetic algebras, Etherington introduced train algebras.
- Our colleague, Colin Campbell, was a student at the University of Edinburgh in the early 1960s and was taught by Etherington.
- Etherington was promoted successively to Senior Lecturer, Reader and, in 1972, to a personal chair.
Born 8 February 1908, Lewisham, Kent, England. Died 1 January 1994, Easdale, Argyllshire, Scotland.
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