Person: Sutton, Oliver
Graham Sutton was a mathematician who made important contributions applying mathematics to meteorology. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1949, appointed CBE in 1950 for distinguished service to government scientific work, and knighted in 1955 for services to mathematics and science.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Oliver Sutton was a schoolmaster and became head of Cwmcarn Elementary School where he gained a reputation as a fine teacher of elementary mathematics.
- We note that William George Leslie Sutton and Jack Sutton both went on to study mathematics; William Sutton was awarded a First Class degree in mathematics by the University of Oxford, and Jack graduated with a mathematics degree from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.
- Sutton's mathematics lecturers at Aberystwyth included William Henry Young and George Adolphus Schott (1868-1937) who was the Professor of Applied Mathematics.
- Sutton won the Welsh Graduate Scholarship and, in 1923 he began studying at Jesus College advised by G H Hardy.
- Sutton worked on series of orthogonal functions and published On a theorem of Carleman a note in the 'Records of 24 April 1924' published in 1925 in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society.
- After two year at Jesus College, Oxford, working with G H Hardy, Sutton took a position as a Mathematics Master at Canton Municipal Secondary School in Cardiff in 1925.
- The school had opened in 1907 and when Sutton taught there the headmaster was Elwyn James who always was seen with mortar board, gown and cane.
- After teaching mathematics for one year, Sutton was appointed as an Assistant Lecturer in Mathematics at University College, Aberystwyth in 1926.
- Blunt (1886-1965), born in Wales with Welsh as his first language, had studied mathematics and physics at University College, Aberystwyth from 1904 to 1907 and, like Sutton, he had been taught by G A Schott.
- He discussed his research with Sutton while visiting Aberystwyth convincing him that this was an exciting and important application of mathematics.
- By the time Sutton joined the group there had been useful progress in observing and understanding the complex properties of atmospheric flow relevant to the dispersion of gaseous and particulate material injected locally into the atmosphere.
- Graham and Doris Sutton had two sons, Peter Morgan Sutton (1932-2014) and Anthony Graham Sutton (1935-2004).
- We note at this point that Peter Morgan Sutton studied at Bishop Wordsworth School, Salisbury, Wrekin College, Wellington, University College London and at University College Hospital Medical School.
- At the Meteorological Office, Sutton began working on turbulent motion in the atmosphere and realised that some of the then current mathematical models for explaining diffusion did not fit the experimental results.
- Sutton soon gained a reputation as an outstanding researcher and his abilities as an organiser and administrator were also quickly evident.
- Returning to the Meteorological Office, Sutton was made Head of the Meteorology Section in 1938.
- This led to Sutton being involved in organising research and development of various weapons programmes and as a consequence he had no publications between 1939 and 1946.
- A new Field Planning Section was formed in January 1941 to study the atmospheric dispersion of chemical weapons and Sutton was chosen to lead the Section.
- W R Lane, a senior contemporary Porton physicist, writes of Sutton's contribution at that time as follows: "Sutton had a deep feeling for the inter-disciplinary approach to problems, and with his mathematical expertise and meteorological background he made a major contribution to the work of the Establishment.
- Although Sutton had no expertise in radar development, his organisational abilities and excellent way of dealing with staff meant that he was able to make an important contribution.
- Sutton's point-source formula, at first in restricted use in chemical warfare studies, became widely known in the context of industrial pollution.
- Sutton also began publishing books with the monograph Atmospheric Turbulence (1949) and the popular work The Science of Flight (1949).
- After six years at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham, Sutton returned to the Meteorological Office in 1953 when he was appointed Director General.
Born 4 February 1903, Cwmcarn, Monmouthshire, Wales. Died 26 May 1977, Sketty Green, near Swansea, Wales.
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