Person: Whittaker (2), John
John Macnaghten Whittaker worked in Quantum Mechanics and Complex Analysis. He became Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield University.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Whittaker attended Fettes from 1918 until 1920 during which time he was introduced to calculus.
- One of the first papers the Whittaker wrote solved a problem mentioned by Pollard in his lectures and it appears that Pollard's lectures had the most influence on the direction of his mathematical interests.
- Whittaker accepted the chair of pure mathematics at the University of Liverpool in 1933.
- The teaching of pure mathematics was his responsibility, while teaching applied mathematics was the responsibility of L Rosehead who was appointed to the Applied Mathematics Chair at the same time as Whittaker.
- Jack and Iona had two sons, John Edmund Whittaker born on 19 November 1934 and Richard James Whittaker born on 6 February 1938.
- By 1938 war seemed almost inevitable so Whittaker joined the emergency research officers.
- Whittaker returned to his chair at Liverpool in October 1945 and became involved in administrative duties such as being Dean of Science from 1947 to 1950.
- Let us now look at Whittaker's contributions to mathematics.
- He was interested over many years in expanding functions in a series of polynomials and Whittaker's constant is named after him.
- The first of these contains a result, which Whittaker correctly attributed to Takenaka, which shows that, with an added technical condition, an entire function every derivative of which has a zero in the unit disk is necessarily a constant.
- The constant has become known as Whittaker's constant despite the result being originally due to Takenaka.
- In many ways this work can be seen as Whittaker's greatest achievement and he was awarded the prestigious Adams Prize by Cambridge University for this work in 1949.
- In 1965 Whittaker retired as Vice-Chancellor and enjoyed his mathematics again.
Born 7 March 1905, Cambridge, England. Died 29 January 1984, Sheffield, 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