Fritz Ursell

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Fritz J. Ursell
Fritz Ursell.jpg
Born (1923-04-28)28 April 1923[1]
Düsseldorf, Germany
Died 12 May 2012(2012-05-12) (aged 89)[2]
Manchester, UK
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Known for Ursell number
Awards Georg Weinblum Lectureship, 1985–1986
Fellow of the Royal Society[3]
Scientific career
Fields Applied mathematics
Institutions University of Manchester
University of Cambridge
Doctoral students J. N. Newman
E. O. Tuck
David Evans[4]

Fritz Joseph Ursell FRS[3] (28 April 1923 – 11 May 2012) was a British mathematician noted for his contributions to fluid mechanics, especially in the area of wave-structure interactions.[5] He held the Beyer Chair of Applied Mathematics at the University of Manchester from 1961–1990,[6] was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1972 and retired in 1990.[4]


Ursell came to England as a refugee in 1937 from Germany.[1][7] From 1941 to 1943 he studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating with a bachelor degree in mathematics.


At the end of 1943 Ursell joined the Admiralty (British Navy Department) as a part of a team—headed by George Deacon—whose task is to formulate rules for forecasting waves for the allied landings in Japan. Their findings have become the basis of modern wave-forecasting. Ursell stayed in the Admiralty until 1947. In 1947 he was appointed to a post-doctoral fellowship in applied mathematics at Manchester University without a doctorate. In 1950 he returned to Cambridge as a lecturer. There he met G. I. Taylor. In 1957 he spent a year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, having been invited by Arthur Ippen. In 1961 Ursell moved back to Manchester.[8]

Fritz Ursell was married to Katharina Renate Zander in 1959. They had two daughters.[1] Susie and Ruth, Susie is married and has two children.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Ursell (1994, p. 975)
  2. ^ a b "Obituary – Fritz Joseph Ursell". The Times. 2012-05-15. Retrieved 2012-05-15. 
  3. ^ a b Abrahams, I. D.; Martin, P. A. (2013). "Fritz Joseph Ursell. 28 April 1923 -- 11 May 2012". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2013.0005. 
  4. ^ a b Fritz Ursell at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ Ursell (1994)
  6. ^ Abrahams, I. D.; Martin, P. A.; Norris, A. N. (2001). "G.R. Wickham: An appreciation". Wave Motion. 33: 1. doi:10.1016/S0165-2125(00)00059-7.  This contains also information on Fritz Ursell and the Beyer Chair.
  7. ^ Martin, P.A.; Wickham, G.R. (1992). Wave Asymptotics: The Proceedings of the Meeting to Mark the Retirement of Professor Fritz Ursell from the Beyer Chair of Applied Mathematics in the University of Manchester. Cambridge University Press. p. xi. ISBN 0-521-41414-8. 
  8. ^ Ursell, Fritz (1994). Ship Hydrodynamics, Water Waves, and Asymptotics: Collected Papers of F. Ursell, 1946–1992. Advanced Series on Fluid Mechanics. World Scientific. ISBN 978-981-02-1950-5.  In two volumes, 1004 pp.
Preceded by
James Lighthill
Beyer Chair of Applied Mathematics at University of Manchester
1961 – 1990
Succeeded by
Philip Hall