Senior Wrangler (University of Cambridge)
Specifically, it is the person who achieves the highest overall mark among the Wranglers – the students at Cambridge who gain first-class degrees in mathematics. The Cambridge undergraduate mathematics course, or Mathematical Tripos, is famously difficult.
Many Senior Wranglers have become world-leading figures in mathematics, physics, and other fields. They include George Airy, John Herschel, Arthur Cayley, James Inman, George Stokes, Isaac Todhunter, Morris Pell, Lord Rayleigh, Arthur Eddington, J. E. Littlewood, Frank Ramsey, Donald Coxeter, Jacob Bronowski and Ben Green.
Senior Wranglers were once fêted with torchlit processions and took pride of place in the University's graduation ceremony. Years in Cambridge were often remembered in terms of who had been Senior Wrangler that year.
The annual ceremony in which the Senior Wrangler becomes known was first held in the 18th century. Standing on the balcony of the University's Senate House, the examiner reads out the class results for mathematics, and printed copies of the results are then thrown to the audience below. He no longer announces the students' exact rankings, but he still identifies the Senior Wrangler, nowadays by tipping his academic hat when he reads out the person's name.
Others who finished in the top 12 
The difficulty of the examinations is illustrated by the identities of some of those who have performed well, but less well than the Senior Wrangler.
Those who have finished between third and 12th include Karl Pearson and William Henry Bragg (third), George Green and G. H. Hardy (fourth), Adam Sedgwick (fifth), John Venn (sixth), Bertrand Russell and Nevil Maskelyne (seventh), Thomas Malthus (ninth), and John Maynard Keynes (12th).
Between 1748 and 1909, the University publicly announced the ranking, which was then reported in newspapers such as The Times. The examination was considered to be by far the most important in Britain and the Empire. The prestige of being a high Wrangler was great; the respect accorded to the Senior Wrangler was immense. Andrew Warwick, author of Masters of Theory, describes the term 'Senior Wrangler' as "synonymous with academic supremacy".
Since 1910, successful students in the examinations have been told their rankings privately, and not all Senior Wranglers have become publicly known as such.
Of those who have become publicly known, all so far have been men, although women were not allowed to receive degrees at Cambridge until 1948.
The youngest ever Senior Wrangler was probably James Wilkinson, who came top in 1939, aged 19 years and 9 months. The youngest up to 1909 was Peter Guthrie Tait, who was Senior Wrangler in 1852, aged 20 years and 8 months.
Two individuals have placed first without becoming known as Senior Wrangler. One was the student Philippa Fawcett in 1890. At that time, although the University allowed women to take the examinations, it did not allow them to be members of the University, nor to receive degrees. Therefore they could not be known as 'Wranglers', and were merely told how they had performed compared to the male candidates, for example, "equal to the Third Wrangler", or "between the Seventh and Eighth Wranglers". Having gained the highest mark, Fawcett was declared to have finished "above the Senior Wrangler".
The other was the mathematics professor George Pólya. Having contributed to reforming the Tripos with the aim that an excellent performance would be less dependent on solving hard problems and more so on showing a broad mathematical understanding and knowledge, G H Hardy asked Pólya to sit the examinations himself, unofficially, during his stay in England in 1924–5. Pólya did so, and to Hardy's surprise, received the highest mark, an achievement which, had he been a student, would have made him the Senior Wrangler.
Derived uses of the term 
Senior Wrangler's Walk is a path in Cambridge, the walk to and along which was considered to be sufficient constitutional exercise for a student aspiring to become the Senior Wrangler. The route was shorter than other walks, such as Wranglers' Walk and the Grantchester Grind, undertaken by undergraduates whose aspirations were lower.
Senior Wrangler is also the name of a solitaire card game, alternatively known as Mathematics and Double Calculation, played with two decks of cards and involving elementary modular arithmetic.
Literary references 
Fictional Senior Wranglers appearing in novels include Roger Hamley, a character in Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, and Tom Jericho, the cryptanalyst in Robert Harris's novel Enigma, who is described as having been Senior Wrangler in 1938.
The two most successful 19th-century coaches of Senior Wranglers were William Hopkins and Edward Routh. Hopkins, the 'Senior Wrangler Maker', who himself was the 7th Wrangler, coached 17 Senior Wranglers. Routh, who had himself been the Senior Wrangler, coached 27.
Senior Wranglers and Second Wranglers, 1748–1909 
Senior Wranglers since 1910 
Senior Wranglers since 1910 also include:
- David Hobson (Christ's College) (1940s)
- Michael Hall (Trinity College) (1950s)
See also 
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- Warwick, Andrew (2003). Masters of Theory: Cambridge and the Rise of Mathematical Physics. University Of Chicago Press. p. 205. ISBN 0-226-87375-7.
- "At last, a degree of honour for 900 Cambridge women". The Independent. 31 May 1998. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
- Wilkinson, James H. Hammarling, Sven (2003). Encyclopedia of Computer Science. Springer London. ISBN 0-470-86412-5.
- Crilly, Tony (2006). Arthur Cayley: mathematician laureate of the Victorian age. John Hopkins University Press. p. 160. ISBN 0-8018-8011-4.
- Alexanderson, Gerald L. (2000). The random walks of George Pólya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 68.
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- "Senior Wrangler" of the Leader (1932). The Handy Crossword Companion. Odhams Press.
- Davis, Ted; Stuerwer, Roger; Aris, Rutherford (ed.) (1983–2005). Springs of Scientific Creativity: Essays on Founders of Modern Science. University of Minnesota Press. p. 164.
- * Neale, Charles Montague (1907). The senior wranglers of the University of Cambridge, from 1748 to 1907. With biographical, & c., notes. Bury St. Edmunds: Groom and Son. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
- In years where there was a tie, both people tied have been shown as Senior Wrangler, with the next placed individual as Second Wrangler.
- Thomas Jones, the Senior Wrangler that year, acted as his tutor.
- William Albin Garratt is a possibility, if '22nd wrangler' is a misprint for '2nd wrangler' in Venn. Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). "Garratt, William Albin". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Classical Tripos established.
- Founded Hymers College.
- Also senior classic.
- According to legend, Kelvin was so confident he had come top that he asked his servant to run to the Senate House and check who the Second Wrangler was. The servant returned and told him, "You, sir"! Kelvin was reportedly beaten largely on the basis of Parkinson's superior exam technique. The result was reversed in the Smith Prize.
- Routh found more fame subsequently as a coach of other Senior Wranglers. Indeed for twenty-two consecutive years from 1862, one of his pupils was Senior Wrangler, and he coached twenty-seven in all. His first pupil in 1856 was Third Wrangler, and in 1858 both the Senior and Second Wrangler were coached by him. O'Connor, J. J.; Robertson, E. F. (October 2003). "Routh biography". Retrieved 2008-09-25.
- First Jewish Senior Wrangler. A special grace was passed to allow him to be graduated using a special form of the wording in order to not offend his religious beliefs.
- Forsyth was one of the men who were principally responsible for the reform of the Tripos system that led to the end of the Tripos ranking.
- An account exists of the 1882 graduation ceremony. "University Intelligence". The Times. 30 January 1882. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
- Regulations were changed to split the class list into Parts I & II, and Part III. The examinations for the former were held in June and retained the ordered class list (in contrast to Part III), so two sets of results exist for this year.
- Actually placed second to Philippa Fawcett.
- First Indian Senior Wrangler.
- Eddington was the first person to be Senior Wrangler after only two years of study. Hutchinson, Ian H. (December 2002). "Astrophysics and Mysticism: the life of Arthur Stanley Eddington". Retrieved 2008-09-25.
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- Bronowski's biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive: "Jacob Bronowski". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- Wilkinson's biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive: "James Hardy Wilkinson". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
- "Oral History Transcript — Dr. Hermann Bondi". American Institute of Physics. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
- Nash-Williams's biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive: "Crispin St John Alvah Nash-Williams". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
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- Venn, John (1922–27). Alumni Cantabrigienses. Cambridge University Press.