Person: Graham, Thomas
Tommy Graham was a Scottish mathematician and algebraist who taught at Glasgow University for many years.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- His parents were Thomas Graham and Elizabeth Macdonald.
- Thomas Graham Senior was station master at Stepps near Glasgow.
- Thomas and Elizabeth Graham's three sons all attended Glasgow University.
- Tommy Graham was ranked first in his year and was awarded the Logan Medal and Prize.
- Tommy Graham wanted to go to the University of Cambridge to undertake research in mathematics for his doctorate but obtaining the necessary funding was not simple.
- However, there was only one student supported with a William Bryce Fellowship at any one time and, when Graham graduated, Robert Gillespie was being funded with this Fellowship.
- Graham was confident that he would win the competition for the Fellowship in the 1928 competition so decided to spend the two years 1926-28 putting off time.
- His research was undertaken with E Taylor Jones as his advisor, but Graham never intended this to be anything more than an interim measure.
- Graham had to answer questions on material he had studied two years earlier but this proved not to be a problem to him and, as he had hoped, he was awarded the Fellowship and matriculated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in the autumn of 1928.
- When Newman discovered what a talented mathematician Graham was, he advised him to spend time at Princeton and went out of his way to make the necessary arrangements.
- However at Princeton Graham was also much influenced and helped by Oswald Veblen.
- There were other young mathematicians who were showing great promise and Graham benefited from contact with these, particularly with Henry Whitehead who had arrived at Princeton from Oxford the year before Graham.
- Returning to Cambridge in 1932, Graham submitted his thesis On the Structure of Simple and Semi-Simple Groups and, after being examined, was awarded a Ph.D. Back in Glasgow later that year, he was appointed as an Assistant in Mathematics by the Head of Department Thomas MacRobert.
- Graham certainly showed himself to be outstanding as a teacher and in 1935 he was promoted to Lecturer in Mathematics.
- Graham had shown great promise as a researcher but somehow this never translated into publications.
- One is certainly the extremely high standards that Graham set for himself.
- Although Graham was as capable and willing as any member of staff to lecture on subjects such as differential equations, he used his influence to ensure that algebra was given its proper place in the curriculum, and it was due to his efforts that the distinguished German algebraist, Hans Zassenhaus spent the year 1948-49 in Glasgow and became his close friend.
- Graham had an excellent and ready command of English and Scots, and was an able and amusing speaker at students' final year dinners and on similar occasions.
- Tommy Graham attended the Edinburgh Mathematical Society Colloquium held in St Andrews in 1934, 1938, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964 and 1968.
Born 25 July 1905, Stepps, near Glasgow, Scotland. Died 26 January 1974, Glasgow, 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