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Joseph Henry Maclagen Wedderburn


1882 - 1948

Mathematician. Born in Forfar, one of fourteen children of a doctor, Wedderburn was educated at Forfar Academy, George Watson's College (Edinburgh) and the University of Edinburgh. In 1903, he published his first academic paper, On the Isoclinal Lines of a Differential Equation, while still an undergraduate. He continued his studies in Germany and the USA. Returning home in 1905, Wedderburn worked under Professor George Chrystal (1851 - 1911) at the University of Edinburgh. In 1909 he was offered a position at Princeton University (New Jersey).

He volunteered to serve in the British Army at the outbreak of World War I and, in France, devised sound-ranging equipment to pinpoint the positions of enemy guns.

Wedderburn was a very shy and modest man; his lectures involved him reading from his book Lectures on Matrices while transcribing the pages onto the blackboard without ever looking at his students. In his later years he became increasingly solitary, cutting himself off from his friends, and he never married.

He was awarded the MacDougall-Brisbane Gold Medal and Prize by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1921) and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (1933).

Wedderburn is remembered for his remarkable contribution to algebra and matrix theory.


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