Person: Ursell, Fritz Joseph
Fritz Ursell was a German-born mathematician who moved to England and became a leading expert in the mathematical modelling of waves.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- At the Comenius Gymnasium, Fritz learnt Greek and Latin.
- It provided a good classical education but the mathematics teaching was poor and Fritz had little interest in this topic.
- Franklin-Kohn arranged for Fritz to enter Streete Court School, a Preparatory School in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent.
- Ursell did well at Clifton College partly, he believed, because of his good grounding in Latin gained in Düsseldorf.
- If he left school, Ursell would have had to return to Germany where his parents were still living.
- Ursell entered the Upper Fifth Mathematics class at Clifton College in January 1939.
- Fritz was doing well at Clifton College where he was studying mathematics, physics, English, Old Testament and German.
- Fritz Ursell was told that, as an enemy alien, he could not remain in Bristol since enemy aliens could not live within 50 miles of the coast.
- We note that, after Ursell left Clifton College, on 2 December 1940 bombs hit the school buildings and Clifton College was evacuated to Bude on the Cornish coast.
- The Head of Mathematics at Marlborough College was the excellent teacher Alan Robson and, guided by him, Ursell gained a distinction in the School Certificate examinations.
- In January 1941, Ursell matriculated at Trinity College Cambridge.
- Only five students were in Ursell's class at this stage, and they included Freeman Dyson and James Lighthill.
- Ursell, feeling that the other students were much better than he was, approached Besicovitch with his worries.
- After taking courses by G H Hardy on divergent series, J E Littlewood on complex analysis, A E Ingham on number theory, W V D Hodge on Riemann surfaces, and P A M Dirac on quantum mechanics, Ursell graduated with distinction in 1943.
- Ursell published a joint paper with Norman Frederick Barber, The Generation and Propagation of Ocean Waves and Swell.
- We note that Norman Barber played an important role in Ursell's development.
- In September 1947 Ursell left the Admiralty Research Laboratory and, having been awarded an Imperial Chemical Industries 3-year research fellowship, joined the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Manchester.
- The fellowship, although funded by Imperial Chemical Industries, allowed Ursell to undertake research in any area and he had no commitment to ICI.
- Ursell asked Trinity if he could have leave of absence and was allowed to spend the three years at Manchester before taking up the Trinity Fellowship.
- Ursell wrote three important papers while at Manchester, namely Surface waves on deep water in the presence of a submerged circular cylinder.
- In 1950 Ursell returned to Cambridge where, in addition to his Trinity Fellowship, he was appointed to a University Lectureship in Applied Mathematics.
- In 1961 Ursell was offered the Beyer Chair of Applied Mathematics at the University of Manchester.
- However, this was no easy decision for Ursell since he was unsure whether he wanted to take on the administrative work involved in such a position.
- Ursell was honoured by being elected to the Royal Society of London in 1972.
- In his 2008 lecture, Fritz warned that 'recent university reforms ...
- After dying peacefully in hospital at age 89, Ursell's funeral took place on Tuesday 15 May 2012 at Manchester Crematorium.
Born 28 April 1923, Düsseldorf, Germany. Died 11 May 2012, Manchester, 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