Person: Northcott, Douglas Geoffrey
Douglas Northcott was an English mathematician best known for his work on ideal theory.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- It would be reasonable to ask at this point why Douglas Northcott's name was not Douglas Robertson.
- The mathematics master C J A Trimble was a fine teacher and this combined with Northcott's outstanding abilities saw him win, in 1935, a Bayliss Scholarship to enter St John's College, Cambridge to study mathematics.
- Highly successful undergraduate years saw Northcott become a Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos of 1937.
- Hardy was popular as a research supervisor and at this time already had six students but he recognised Northcott's potential and so he took him on as his seventh student.
- At this point Northcott was awarded a Commonwealth Fund Scholarship to allow him to study Banach spaces at Princeton University.
- Northcott had already decided not to proceed with his trip to the United States and instead reported to the Cambridge University Joint Recruiting Board to offer his services in the war effort.
- Northcott, however, was totally committed to the course of action he had chosen.
- Northcott, however, became ill again this time with malaria.
- Northcott recovered sufficiently to rejoin his division which had fallen back to Port Swettenham but that fell on 10 January 1942.
- Northcott remained with his regiment as they fell back to try to defend Singapore.
- By 13 February they were defending the city itself and Northcott was on the beach near the Raffles hotel two days later when General Percival surrendered unconditionally.
- About 80,000 British troops, including Northcott, were taken prisoner and he suffered a further illness contracting peritonitis before being sent by ship to Japan where they suffered appalling conditions in a camp while working on an industrial project.
- Northcott was able to think about mathematics; indeed, thinking about mathematics probably helped him survive his war experiences.
- On 16 October she sailed from Southampton bound for New York and Northcott had many famous passengers for company, including a number of diplomats bound for the first session of the new United Nations.
- In particular Emil Artin and Claude Chevalley were running a seminar which Northcott attended and soon found himself attracted to the subject.
- Artin suggested that he read papers by André Weil and soon Northcott was producing interesting results.
- After nearly two years at Princeton, Northcott returned to Cambridge where he had been awarded a research fellowship for St John's College.
- Northcott remained the head of a department for 30 years, until his retirement in 1982.
- In 1960 Northcott published An introduction to homological algebra.
- Northcott retired in 1982 and in that year the London Mathematical Society held a meeting in Sheffield in his honour.
Born 31 December 1916, London, England. Died 8 April 2005, Sheffield, England.
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Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive