Harry Bateman

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Harry Bateman
Born (1882-05-29)29 May 1882
Manchester, England, UK
Died 21 January 1946(1946-01-21) (aged 63)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Citizenship American/British
Fields Geometrical optics
Partial differential equations
Doctoral advisor Frank Morley
Doctoral students Clifford Truesdell
Known for Bateman Manuscript Project
Bateman function
Bateman polynomials
Bateman transform
Notable awards Senior Wrangler (1903)
Smith's Prize (1905)

Harry Bateman FRS[1] (29 May 1882 – 21 January 1946) was an English mathematician.[2][3]


Harry Bateman first grew to love mathematics at Manchester Grammar School, and in his final year, won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. Bateman studied with coach Robert Alfred Herman preparing for Cambridge Mathematical Tripos. He distinguished himself in 1903 as Senior Wrangler (tied with P.E. Marrack) and by winning the Smith's Prize (1905).[4] He studied in Göttingen and Paris, taught at the University of Liverpool and University of Manchester before moving to the US in 1910. First he taught at Bryn Mawr College and then Johns Hopkins University. There, working with Frank Morley in geometry, he achieved the PhD. In 1917 he took up his permanent position at California Institute of Technology, then still called Throop Polytechnic Institute.

Eric Temple Bell says, "Like his contemporaries and immediate predecessors among Cambridge mathematicians of the first decade of this century [1901–1910]... Bateman was thoroughly trained in both pure analysis and mathematical physics, and retained an equal interest in both throughout his scientific career."[5]

Theodore von Kármán was called in as an advisor for a projected aeronautics laboratory at Caltech and later gave this appraisal of Bateman.[6]

In 1926 Cal Tech [sic] had only a minor interest in aeronautics. The professorship that came nearest to aeronautics was occupied by a shy, meticulous Englishman, Dr. Harry Bateman. He was an applied mathematician from Cambridge who worked in the field of fluid mechanics. He seemed to know everything but did nothing important. I liked him.

Scientific contributions[edit]

In 1907 Harry Bateman was lecturing at the University of Liverpool together with another senior wrangler, Ebenezer Cunningham. Together they came up in 1908 with the idea of a conformal group of spacetime (now usually denoted as C(1,3))[7] which involved an extension of the method of images.[8] For his part, in 1910 Bateman published "The transformation of the electrodynamical equations".[9] He showed that the Jacobian matrix of a spacetime diffeomorphism which preserves the Maxwell equations is proportional to an orthogonal matrix, hence conformal. The transformation group of such transformations has 15 parameters and extends both the Poincaré group and the Lorentz group. Bateman called the elements of this group spherical wave transformations.[10]

In evaluating this paper, one of his students, Clifford Truesdell, wrote

The importance of Bateman's paper lies not in its specific details but in its general approach. Bateman, perhaps influenced by Hilbert's point of view in mathematical physics as a whole, was the first to see that the basic ideas of electromagnetism were equivalent to statements regarding integrals of differential forms, statements for which Grassmann's calculus of extension on differentiable manifolds, Poincaré's theories of Stokesian transformations and integral invariants, and Lie's theory of continuous groups could be fruitfully applied.[11]

In 1914 Bateman published The Mathematical Analysis of Electrical and Optical Wave-motion. As Murnaghan says, this book "is unique and characteristic of the man. Into less than 160 small pages is crowded a wealth of information which would take an expert years to digest."[3] The following year he published a textbook Differential Equations, and sometime later Partial differential equations of mathematical physics. Bateman is also author of Hydrodynamics and Numerical integration of differential equations.

Harry Bateman wrote two significant articles on the history of applied mathematics:

  • "The influence of tidal theory upon the development of mathematics"[12]
  • "Hamilton's work in dynamics and its influence on modern thought"[13]

In his Mathematical Analysis of Electrical and Optical Wave-motion (p. 131) he describes the charged-corpuscle trajectory as follows:

a corpuscle has a kind of tube or thread attached to it. When the motion of the corpuscle changes a wave or kink runs along the thread; the energy radiated from the corpuscle spreads out in all directions but is concentrated round the thread so that the thread acts as a guiding wire.

This figure of speech is not to be confused with a string in physics, for the universes in string theory have dimensions inflated beyond four, something not found in Bateman's work. Bateman went on to study the luminiferous aether with an article "The structure of the Aether".[14] His starting point is the bivector form of an electromagnetic field E + iB. He recalled Alfred-Marie Lienard's electromagnetic fields, and then distinguished an other type he calls aethereal fields:

When a large number of "aethereal fields" are superposed their singular curves indicate the structure of an "aether" which is capable of supporting a certain type of electromagnetic field.

Bateman received many honours for his contributions, including election to the Royal Society of London in 1928, election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1930. He was elected as vice-president of the American Mathematical Society in 1935 and was the Society's Gibbs Lecturer for 1943.[3][15] He was on his way to New York to receive an award from the Institute of Aeronautical Science when he died of coronary thrombosis. The Harry Bateman Research Instructorships at the California Institute of Technology are named in his honour.[16]

After his death, his notes on higher transcendental functions were edited by A. Erdélyi, W. Magnus, F. Oberhettinger, and F. G. Tricomi, and published in 1954.[17]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Erdelyi, A. (1947). "Harry Bateman. 1882-1946". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 5 (15): 590. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1947.0020. 
  2. ^ Erdelyi, A. (1946). "Harry Bateman". Journal of the London Mathematical Society (4): 300–310. doi:10.1112/jlms/s1-21.4.300. 
  3. ^ a b c Murnaghan, F. D. (1948). "Harry Bateman 1882-1946". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 54: 88–94. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1948-08955-8. 
  4. ^ "Bateman, Harry (BTMN900H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  5. ^ Eric Temple Bell (1946) Quarterly of Applied Mathematics 4:105–111.
  6. ^ Theodore von Kármán with Lee Edson (1967) The Wind and Beyond, page 124, Little, Brown and Company
  7. ^ Boris Kosyakov, Introduction to the Classical Theory of Particles and Fields, Springer, 2007, p. 216.
  8. ^ Warwick, Andrew (2003). Masters of theory: Cambridge and the rise of mathematical physics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-87375-7.  pages 416–24.
  9. ^ Bateman, H. (1910). "The Transformation of the Electrodynamical Equations". Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society: 223–264. doi:10.1112/plms/s2-8.1.223. 
  10. ^ Bateman, H. (1909). "The Conformal Transformations of a Space of Four Dimensions and Their Applications to Geometrical Optics". Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society: 70–89. doi:10.1112/plms/s2-7.1.70. 
  11. ^ Truesdell, C. (1984). An idiot's fugitive essays on science: methods, criticism, training, circumstances. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-90703-3.  Genius and the establishment at a polite standstill in the modern university: Bateman", pages 403 to 438
  12. ^ Bateman, H. (1943). "The Influence of Tidal Theory upon the Development of Mathematics". National Mathematics Magazine. 18 (1): 14–26. doi:10.2307/3029913. 
  13. ^ H. Bateman (1944) "Hamilton's work in dynamics and its influence on modern thought", Scripta Mathematica 10:51-63
  14. ^ H. Bateman (1915) The Structure of the Aether, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society 21(6):299–309
  15. ^ Bateman, H. (1945). "The control of an elastic fluid". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 51: 601–646. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1945-08413-4. MR 0014548. 
  16. ^ "Instructorships in Mathematics 2008–09". Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  17. ^ A. Erdélyi, W. Magnus, F. Oberhettinger, F. G. Tricomi (1954). Higher Transcendental Functions. McGraw-Hill. 
  18. ^ Walsh, Joseph L. (1933). "Bateman on Mathematical Physics". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 39 (3): 178–180. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1933-05561-1. 

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