Person: Mercer (2), Alan
Alan Mercer was an English mathematician who made important contributions to the field of Operational Research.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- While at this school, Alan won an open scholarship to study mathematics at Sidney Sussex, University of Cambridge.
- Mercer first met Iris, who had also attended Penistone Grammar School, in January 1950.
- At this meeting Iris congratulated Mercer for winning a scholarship to Cambridge.
- Mercer matriculated at Sidney Sussex in the autumn of 1950.
- The first research Alan undertook was a statistical analysis of the counts on bull semen.
- He later moved to Birkbeck College, University of London, and advised Mercer for a Ph.D. while there, but we shall return to this below.
- Leaving Cambridge, Mercer was appointed to the Field Investigation Group (Operational Research) of the National Coal Board in 1954.
- By the time this paper appeared in print, Mercer had left the National Coal Board and had taken up a post with the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston.
- This was the year that the Mercers went to Aldermaston in Berkshire which was at least 60 km west of London.
- Mercer was at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment when he submitted his paper (with Cyril Samuel Smith who had been a colleague at the National Coal Board) A random walk in which the steps occur randomly in time (1959).
- Mercer published Some simple duration-dependent stochastic processes (1959) and A queueing problem in which the arrival times of the customers are scheduled (1960) giving his address in both as Birkbeck College, University of London and Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston.
- Mercer was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of London in 1961 for his thesis Some Stochastic Processes with an Enumerable Infinity of States.
- Lancaster was one of a number of new universities set up in the 1960s and it had only been established in 1964, so Mercer was one of the founding figures.
- The first students arrived at the university in October 1964 so Mercer had a major influence in determining the direction of the Department.
- Mercer spent the rest of his career at Lancaster University.
- Alan wrote: 'Page 10 includes a photo of me, which is significant for two reasons.
- Second, it is likely to be the last photo of me.' Alan was highly innovative, with a wide range of interests.
Born 22 August 1931, Stocksbridge, Yorkshire, England. Died 9 July 2014, Lancaster, England.
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