17 December 1900|
|Died||3 April 1998
|Doctoral advisor||G. H. Hardy|
|Doctoral students||B. Maitland
|Known for||Cartwright's theorem|
|Influences||J. E. Littlewood|
De Morgan Medal (1968)
Honorary Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh (HonFRSE) 1968
Sylvester Medal (1964)
Early life and education
Cartwright was born in Aynho, Northamptonshire, where her father was vicar, and died in Cambridge, England. Through her grandmother Jane Holbech she was descended from the poet John Donne and William Mompesson, the Vicar of Eyam.
She studied mathematics at St Hugh's College, Oxford, graduating in 1923 with a first class degree. She was the first woman to attain the final degree lectures and to obtain a first.
She was supervised by G. H. Hardy in her doctoral studies. During the academic year 1928–9 Hardy was at Princeton, so it was E. C. Titchmarsh who took over the duties as a supervisor. Her thesis on zeros of entire functions was examined by J. E. Littlewood whom she met for the first time as an external examiner in her oral examination for the D.Phil. She would later establish an enduring collaboration with Littlewood.
In 1930 Cartwright was awarded a Yarrow Research Fellowship and she went to Girton College, Cambridge, to continue working on the topic of her doctoral thesis. Attending Littlewood's lectures, she solved one of the open problems which he posed. Her theorem, now known as Cartwright's theorem, gives an estimate for the maximum modulus of an analytic function that takes the same value no more than p times in the unit disc. To prove the theorem she used a new approach, applying a technique introduced by Lars Ahlfors for conformal mappings.
In 1936 Cartwright became director of studies in mathematics at Girton College, and in 1938 she began work on a new project which had a major impact on the direction of her research. The Radio Research Board of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research produced a memorandum regarding certain differential equations which came out of modeling radio and radar work. They asked the London Mathematical Society if they could help find a mathematician who could work on these problems and Cartwright became interested in this memorandum. The dynamics lying behind the problems were unfamiliar to Cartwright so she approached Littlewood for help with this aspect. They began to collaborate studying the equations. Littlewood wrote:
|“||For something to do we went on and on at the thing with no earthly prospect of "results"; suddenly the whole vista of the dramatic fine structure of solutions stared us in the face.||”|
The fine structure which Littlewood describes here is today seen to be a typical instance of the butterfly effect. The collaboration led to important results, and these have greatly influenced the direction that the modern theory of dynamical systems has taken.
In 1947 she was elected to be a Fellow of the Royal Society and, although she was not the first woman to be elected to that Society, she was the first female mathematician.
Cartwright was appointed Mistress of Girton in 1948 then, in addition, a Reader in the Theory of Functions in Cambridge in 1959, holding this appointment until 1968.
Cartwright was the first woman:
- to receive the Sylvester Medal
- to serve on the Council of the Royal Society
- to be President of the London Mathematical Society (in 1961–62)
She also received the De Morgan Medal of the Society in 1968. In 1968 she was elected an Honorary Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh (HonFRSE). In 1969 she received the distinction of being honoured by the Queen, becoming Dame Mary Cartwright, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
- Hayman, Walter K. (2000). "Dame Mary (Lucy) Cartwright, D.B.E. 17 December 1900 - 3 April 1998: Elected F.R.S. 1947". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 46: 19. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1999.0070.
- "Obituary: Mary Cartwright". The Times. 1998.
- Freeman J. Dyson, Mary Lucy Cartwright (1900-1998): Chaos theory, pp. 169-177, in Out of the Shadows: Contributions of Twentieth-Century Women to Physics, edited by Nina Byers and Gary Williams, 498 p. (Cambridge University Press, 2006). ISBN 0-521-82197-5
- Mary Cartwright at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Mary Cartwright", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
- "A Point of View: Mary, queen of maths". BBC News magazine. 8 March 2013.
Kathleen Teresa Blake Butler
|Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge
Muriel Clara Bradbrook