Person: Wylie, Shaun
Shaun Wylie was a British mathematician who made important contributions to code-breaking in World War II. He wrote an important text-book on algebraic topology.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Shaun was the youngest of his parents' sons.
- Shaun was brought up in Oxford in a home often filled by American scholars who were Rhodes Scholars at the University of Oxford.
- (One of the founders was a Mr George and this led to the name 'Dragon School'.) From the Dragon School, Wylie won a scholarship to Winchester College, one of the best independent schools in England.
- The school is situated in Winchester, south west of London, and there Wylie received an outstanding secondary education.
- Wylie, however, loved mathematics and the College arranged it so that he could study both subjects.
- Wylie was able to offer both classics and mathematics for the scholarship examinations.
- Wylie was awarded a Ph.D. in 1937 for his thesis Duality and Intersection in General Complexes.
- For the year 1937-38 Wylie undertook post-doctoral research at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
- At Princeton, Wylie had met a fellow British student Alan Turing who was there during 1936-38.
- In December 1940 he wrote to Wylie and invited him to work at Bletchley Park.
- In February 1941 Wylie began to work with Turing in Hut 8 on the problem of decoding the German Enigma device.
- except for Turing, no one made a bigger contribution to the success of Hut 8 than Wylie; he was easily the best all-rounder in the section, astonishingly quick and resourceful.
- In late 1943 Wylie moved from work on decoding the German Navy Enigma messages to attacking the more demanding messages sent by Lorenz machines.
- Wylie joined the section in F Block which had been built close to Hut 11 in early 1943.
- When the war ended Wylie took up his academic career again.
- Mathematics is not perhaps the most hilarious of subjects, but in Shaun's hands - and voice - it was pretty close.
- In 1958 Wylie returned to intelligence work when he took up an appointment as chief mathematician at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham.
- But we should mention a few of Wylie's other interests.
- Wylie was an expert setter of crosswords and he set the crosswords in the Listener for many years.
- He used the nom-de-plume of Petti and the reader would need to have abilities like those of Wylie to even understand why.
- There is an old (15th century) Scottish word wyliecoat which means a petticoat (an underskirt worn by women).
- Now the link Wylie - wyliecoat - petticoat - Petti become clear.
Born 17 January 1913, Oxford, England. Died 2 October 2009, Cambridge, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin England, Topology
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive