Robert Alexander Rankin

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Robert Rankin
Born (1915-10-27)27 October 1915
Died 27 January 2001(2001-01-27) (aged 85)
Alma mater Clare College, Cambridge
Awards Senior Whitehead Prize (1987)
De Morgan Medal (1998)
Scientific career
Institutions University of Cambridge
University of Birmingham
University of Glasgow
Doctoral advisor G. H. Hardy and Albert Ingham
Doctoral students Michael P. Drazin

Robert Alexander Rankin (27 October 1915 – 27 January 2001) was a Scottish mathematician who worked in analytic number theory.

Rankin's father, the Revd Oliver Shaw Rankin, was a minister who later became Professor of Old Testament Language, Literature and Theology in the University of Edinburgh.

Rankin was born in Garlieston, Wigtownshire, Scotland, attended Fettes College and graduated from Clare College, Cambridge in 1937. In Cambridge he was particularly influenced by J.E. Littlewood and A.E. Ingham.

He was elected a fellow of Clare College in 1939, but his career was interrupted by the Second World War, during which he worked on rocketry research at Fort Halstead. In 1945 he returned to Cambridge, and then moved to the University of Birmingham in 1951 as Mason professor of mathematics. In 1954 he became Professor of Mathematics, Glasgow University, retiring in 1982.

He had a continuing interest in Srinivasa Ramanujan, working initially with G.H. Hardy on Ramanujan's unpublished notes. His research interests lay in the distribution of prime numbers and in modular forms. In 1939 he developed what is now known as the Rankin–Selberg method. In 1977 Cambridge University Press published Rankin's Modular Forms and Functions. In his review, Marvin Knopp wrote:

For, as much as any recent exposition of modular functions, this book succeeds in getting near the research frontier, and in some instances even reaches it — no small feat in this theory. Only someone of Rankin's stature as a research mathematician and experience in the classroom could aspire to such an accomplishment in a self-contained work — beginning with first principles.[1]

In 1987 Rankin received the Senior Whitehead Prize from the London Mathematical Society.[2]

He died in Glasgow in 2001.

See also[edit]


  • An introduction to mathematical analysis, Pergamon Press 1963; Dover 2007.
  • The modular group and its subgroups, Madras, Ramanujan Institute, 1969.
  • Modular forms and functions, Cambridge University Press 1977


External links[edit]