Louis J. Mordell

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Louis Mordell
Louis Mordell.jpeg
Louis Mordell in Nizza, 1970.
Born Louis Joel Mordell
(1888-01-28)28 January 1888
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died 12 March 1972(1972-03-12) (aged 84)
Nationality British
Fields Mathematics
Institutions Birkbeck College
University of Manchester
University of Cambridge
Alma mater St John's College, Cambridge[1]
Doctoral advisor Henry Frederick Baker[2][3]
Doctoral students Ram Prakash Bambah
Eric Barnes
J. W. S. Cassels
John Chalk
Clive Davis[2][3]
Known for Chowla–Mordell theorem
Mordell–Weil theorem
Erdős–Mordell inequality
Notable awards De Morgan Medal (1941)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]

Louis Joel Mordell (28 January 1888 – 12 March 1972) was an American-born British mathematician, known for pioneering research in number theory. He was born in Philadelphia, USA, in a Jewish family of Lithuanian extraction.

Education[edit]

Mordell was educated at the University of Cambridge where he completed the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos as a student of St John's College, Cambridge starting in 1906 after successfully passing the scholarship examination.[1]

Research[edit]

After graduating Mordell began independent research into particular diophantine equations: the question of integer points on the cubic curve, and special case of what is now called a Thue equation, the Mordell equation

y2 = x3 + k.

He took an appointment at Birkbeck College, London in 1913. During World War I he was involved in war work, but also produced one of his major results, proving in 1917 the multiplicative property of Ramanujan's tau-function. The proof was by means, in effect, of the Hecke operators, which had not yet been named after Erich Hecke; it was, in retrospect, one of the major advances in modular form theory, beyond its status as an odd corner of the theory of special functions.

In 1920, he took a teaching position in UMIST, becoming the Fielden Chair of Pure Mathematics in at the University of Manchester in 1922 and Professor in 1923. There he developed a third area of interest within number theory, geometry of numbers. His basic work on Mordell's theorem is from 1921-1922, as is the formulation of the Mordell conjecture.

He took British citizenship in 1929. In Manchester he also built up the department, offering posts to a number of outstanding mathematicians who had been forced from posts on the continent of Europe. He brought in Reinhold Baer, G. Billing, Paul Erdős, Chao Ko, Kurt Mahler, and Beniamino Segre. He also recruited J. A. Todd, P. Du Val, Harold Davenport, L. C. Young, and invited distinguished visitors.

In 1945, he returned to Cambridge as a Fellow of St. John's, when elected to the Sadleirian Chair, and became Head of Department. He officially retired in 1953. It was at this time that he had his only formal research students, of whom J. W. S. Cassels was one. His idea of supervising research was said to involve the suggestion that a proof of the transcendence of the Euler–Mascheroni constant was probably worth a doctorate. His book Diophantine Equations (1969) is based on lectures, and gives an idea of his discursive style.

References[edit]

Educational offices
Preceded by
(none)
Fielden Chair of Pure Mathematics
1922–1945
Succeeded by
Max Newman