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Here are the mathematicians you nominated to go on the new £50 note

The Bank of England has released a preliminary list of names nominated by the public to appear on the new £50 note. I’ve done a bit of analysis on the list, and present here my findings.

To recap: the Bank asked for nominations satisfying the following conditions:

  • have contributed to the field of science
  • be real – so no fictional characters please
  • not be alive – Her Majesty the Queen is the only exception
  • have shaped thought, innovation, leadership or values in the UK
  • inspire people, not divide them

The released list consists of the names that were nominated in the first week, and belong to people who are real, deceased, and contributed to science ‘in any way’. They haven’t divulged the number of times each name was nominated, or the ineligible names. There are 813 names on the list. The first thing I looked at was the gender breakdown. Just over 25% of the names are female, which is much higher than you’d expect for a list of dead scientists, since women have historically been largely excluded from scientific practice and scientific history.

Next, I wanted to see how many of the people named have Wikipedia pages. It would be awkward if, like the recent Nobel laureate Donna Strickland, the person chosen to go on the new note hadn’t been considered notable enough by Wikipedia editors.

Only four of the names on the list don’t have associated Wikipedia pages, as far as I could see. They are:

  • Alan Powell Goffe, an Anglo-Caribbean doctor.
  • Margaret Savigear, who got an MSc in zoology in 1949, and has a lecture series at Sheffield University named after her.
  • Lez Fairbairn, a cancer scientist who died of a heart attack, and has a British Society for Gene and Cell Therapy award named after him.
  • Patrick Phizackerley, a biochemist who helped to develop the precursors to space suits, and whose research into respiratory distress syndrome “saved the lives of many babies”.

Finally, I wanted to see which of the people nominated were mathematicians. I went one better, and skimmed each person’s Wikipedia summary for words ending in ‘-ician’ or ‘-ist’, as well as ‘engineer’ and ‘inventor’, to get a rough idea of all the fields involved.

Here’s a breakdown of the most popular occupations – those that occurred ten or more times:

Occupation Frequency
Physicist 86
Scientist 85
Engineer 78
Mathematician 74
Chemist 60
Inventor 59
Physician 53
Biologist 33
Doctor 27
Biochemist 26
Physiologist 24
Botanist 21
Geologist 19
Pathologist 16
Naturalist 14
Meteorologist 14
Geneticist 13
Microbiologist 12
Zoologist 12

That’s a lot more mathematicians than I expected! Maybe Peter’s post prompted a lot of nominations.

So here’s a list of all the mathematicians and statisticians, made by pulling the summaries from their respective wikipedia pages and looking for the words ‘mathematician’ or ‘statistician’. There are plenty that I’ve never heard of before.

  • John Couch Adams (5 June 1819 – 21 January 1892) was a British mathematician and astronomer.
  • Abraham Manie Adelstein (28 March 1916 – 18 October 1992) was a South African born doctor who became the United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Statistician.
  • George Biddell Airy (27 July 1801 – 2 January 1892) was an English mathematician and astronomer, Astronomer Royal from 1835 to 1881.
  • Hertha Ayrton (28 April 1854 – 26 August 1923) was a British engineer, mathematician, physicist and inventor.
  • Dennis Babbage (26 April 1909 – 9 June 1991) was an English mathematician associated with Magdalene College, Cambridge, and with codebreaking at Bletchley Park during World War II. In 1980 Babbage was President of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
  • Charles Babbage (26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English polymath.
  • Thomas Bayes (c. 1701 – 7 April 1761) was an English statistician, philosopher and Presbyterian minister who is known for formulating a specific case of the theorem that bears his name: Bayes’ theorem.
  • Hermann Bondi (1 November 1919 – 10 September 2005) was an Anglo-Austrian mathematician and cosmologist.
  • George Boole (2 November 1815 – 8 December 1864) was a largely self-taught English mathematician, philosopher and logician, most of whose short career was spent as the first professor of mathematics at Queen’s College, Cork in Ireland.
  • George Edward Pelham Box FRS (18 October 1919 – 28 March 2013) was a British statistician, who worked in the areas of quality control, time-series analysis, design of experiments, and Bayesian inference.
  • Jacob Bronowski (18 January 1908 – 22 August 1974) was a Polish-born British mathematician and historian.
  • David Broomhead (13 November 1950 – 24 July 2014) was a British mathematician specialising in dynamical systems and was professor of applied mathematics at the School of Mathematics, University of Manchester.
  • Mary Cartwright, (17 December 1900 – 3 April 1998) was a British mathematician.
  • George Cayley, 6th Baronet (27 December 1773 – 15 December 1857) was an English engineer, inventor, and aviator.
  • Arthur Cayley F.R.S. (16 August 1821 – 26 January 1895) was a British mathematician.
  • William Kingdon Clifford FRS (4 May 1845 – 3 March 1879) was an English mathematician and philosopher.
  • Charles Alfred Coulson (13 December 1910 – 7 January 1974) was a British applied mathematician, theoretical chemist and religious author.H
  • William Crabtree (1610–1644) was an astronomer, mathematician, and merchant from Broughton, then in the Hundred of Salford, Lancashire, England.
  • Eva Crane (12 June 1912 – 6 September 2007) was a researcher and author on the subjects of bees and beekeeping. Trained as a quantum mathematician, she changed her field of interest to bees.
  • John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occult philosopher, and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy.
  • Samuel Earnshaw (1 February 1805, Sheffield, Yorkshire – 6 December 1888, Sheffield, Yorkshire) was an English clergyman and mathematician and physicist, noted for his contributions to theoretical physics, especially “Earnshaw’s theorem”.
  • Arthur Eddington (28 December 1882 – 22 November 1944) was an English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician of the early 20th century who did his greatest work in astrophysics.
  • Philippa Garrett Fawcett (4 April 1868 – 10 June 1948) was a British mathematician and educationalist.
  • Ronald Aylmer Fisher (17 February 1890 – 29 July 1962) was a British statistician and geneticist.
  • Francis Galton, FRS (16 February 1822 – 17 January 1911) was an English Victorian era statistician, progressive, polymath, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, and psychometrician.
  • Irving John Good (9 December 1916 – 5 April 2009) was a British mathematician who worked as a cryptologist at Bletchley Park with Alan Turing.
  • William Sealy Gosset (13 June 1876 – 16 October 1937) was an English statistician.
  • John Hadley (16 April 1682 – 14 February 1744) was an English mathematician, and laid claim to the invention of the octant, two years after Thomas Godfrey claimed the same.
  • George Garfield Hall (born 5 March 1925-6th May 2018), was a Northern Irish applied mathematician known for original work and contributions to the field of Quantum chemistry.
  • Edmond Halley, FRS (8 November [O.S. 29 October] 1656 – 25 January 1742 [O.S. 14 January 1741]) was an English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist.
  • Godfrey Hardy (7 February 1877 – 1 December 1947) was an English mathematician, known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis.
  • Thomas Harriot (Oxford, c. 1560 – London, 2 July 1621), also spelled Harriott, Hariot or Heriot, was an English astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer and translator who made advances within the scientific field.
  • Oliver Heaviside FRS (18 May 1850 – 3 February 1925) was an English self-taught electrical engineer, mathematician, and physicist who adapted complex numbers to the study of electrical circuits, invented mathematical techniques for the solution of differential equations (equivalent to Laplace transforms), reformulated Maxwell’s field equations in terms of electric and magnetic forces and energy flux, and independently co-formulated vector analysis.
  • John Herschel, 1st Baronet (7 March 1792 – 11 May 1871) was an English polymath, mathematician, astronomer, chemist, inventor, experimental photographer who invented the blueprint, and did botanical work.
  • Austin Bradford Hill FRS (8 July 1897 – 18 April 1991), English epidemiologist and statistician, pioneered the randomized clinical trial and, together with Richard Doll, demonstrated the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
  • Thomas Archer Hirst FRS (22 April 1830 – 16 February 1892) was a 19th-century mathematician, specialising in geometry.
  • William Vallence Douglas Hodge FRS FRSE (17 June 1903 – 7 July 1975) was a British mathematician, specifically a geometer.
  • Lancelot Thomas Hogben FRS FRSE (9 December 1895 – 22 August 1975) was a British experimental zoologist and medical statistician.
  • Stanley Hooker, FRS, DPhil, BSc, FRAeS, MIMechE, FAAAS, (30 September 1907 – 24 May 1984) was a mathematician and jet engine engineer.
  • Thomas Hornsby (1733 in Durham – 11 April 1810 in Oxford) was a British astronomer and mathematician.
  • Harold Jeffreys, FRS (22 April 1891 – 18 March 1989) was a British mathematician, statistician, geophysicist, and astronomer.
  • James Prescott Joule (24 December 1818 – 11 October 1889) was an English physicist, mathematician and brewer, born in Salford, Lancashire.
  • James Joule (24 December 1818 – 11 October 1889) was an English physicist, mathematician and brewer, born in Salford, Lancashire.
  • Tom Kilburn (11 August 1921 – 17 January 2001) was an English mathematician and computer scientist.
  • Joseph Larmor FRS FRSE DCL LLD (11 July 1857 – 19 May 1942) was an Irish physicist and mathematician who made innovations in the understanding of electricity, dynamics, thermodynamics, and the electron theory of matter.
  • Sir John Edward Lennard-Jones KBE, FRS (27 October 1894 – 1 November 1954) was a British mathematician who was a professor of theoretical physics at University of Bristol, and then of theoretical science at the University of Cambridge.
  • Ada Lovelace (née Byron; 10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.
  • David MacKay (22 April 1967 – 14 April 2016) was a British physicist, mathematician, and academic.
  • Colin Maclaurin (Scottish Gaelic: Cailean MacLabhruinn; February 1698 – 14 June 1746) was a Scottish mathematician who made important contributions to geometry and algebra.
  • Annie Maunder (14 April 1868 – 15 September 1947) was an Irish astronomer and mathematician.
  • Augustus de Morgan (27 June 1806 – 18 March 1871) was a British mathematician and logician.
  • John Napier of Merchiston (1550 – 4 April 1617); also signed as Neper, Nepair; nicknamed Marvellous Merchiston) was a Scottish landowner known as a mathematician, physicist, and astronomer.
  • Phyllis Nicolson (21 September 1917 – 6 October 1968) was a British mathematician most known for her work on the Crank–Nicolson method together with John Crank.
  • George Simon Ohm (German: [ˈɡeːɔɐ̯k ˈʔoːm]; 16 March 1789 – 6 July 1854) was a German physicist and mathematician.
  • William Penney, Baron Penney (24 June 1909 – 3 March 1991), was an English mathematician and professor of mathematical physics at the Imperial College London and later the rector of Imperial College.
  • Bill Penney, Baron Penney (24 June 1909 – 3 March 1991), was an English mathematician and professor of mathematical physics at the Imperial College London and later the rector of Imperial College.
  • Srinivasa Ramanujan FRS (listen ; 22 December 1887 – 26 April 1920) was an Indian mathematician who lived during the British Rule in India.
  • Jesse Ramsden FRS FRSE (6 October 1735 – 5 November 1800) was a British mathematician, astronomical and scientific instrument maker.
  • Frank Plumpton Ramsey (22 February 1903 – 19 January 1930) was a British philosopher, mathematician and economist who made fundamental contributions to abstract algebra before his death at the age of 26.
  • Robert Recorde (c.1512-1558) was a Welsh physician and mathematician.
  • Lewis Fry Richardson, FRS (11 October 1881 – 30 September 1953) was an English mathematician, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist and pacifist who pioneered modern mathematical techniques of weather forecasting, and the application of similar techniques to studying the causes of wars and how to prevent them.
  • Ronald Ross (13 May 1857 – 16 September 1932), was a British medical doctor who received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902 for his work on the transmission of malaria, becoming the first British Nobel laureate, and the first born outside Europe.
  • Edward Routh FRS (20 January 1831 – 7 June 1907), was an English mathematician, noted as the outstanding coach of students preparing for the Mathematical Tripos examination of the University of Cambridge in its heyday in the middle of the nineteenth century.
  • Bertrand Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate.
  • Nicholas Saunderson (20 January 1682 – 19 April 1739) was a blind English scientist and mathematician.
  • Michael Scot (Latin: Michael Scotus; 1175 – c. 1232) was a mathematician and scholar in the Middle Ages.
  • Charlotte Scott (8 June 1858, Lincoln, England – 10 November 1931, Cambridge, England) was a British mathematician who made her career in the United States and was influential in the development of American mathematics, including the mathematical education of women.
  • George Gabriel Stokes, 1st Baronet, (13 August 1819 – 1 February 1903), was an Anglo-Irish physicist and mathematician.
  • Alicia Boole Stott (8 June 1860 – 17 December 1940) was an Irish-English mathematician.
  • James Joseph Sylvester FRS HFRSE LLD (3 September 1814 – 15 March 1897) was an English mathematician.
  • Brook Taylor (18 August 1685 – 29 December 1731) was an English mathematician who is best known for Taylor’s theorem and the Taylor series.
  • Geoffrey Ingram Taylor OM FRS HFRSE (7 March 1886 – 27 June 1975) was a British physicist and mathematician, and a major figure in fluid dynamics and wave theory.
  • Harold Neville Vazeille Temperley (4 March 1915 – 27 March 2017), better known as Neville Temperley, was an applied mathematician who made numerous contributions to the fields of statistical mechanics, graph theory and the physics of liquids and gases.
  • D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson CB FRS FRSE (2 May 1860 – 21 June 1948) was a Scottish biologist, mathematician and classics scholar.
  • Alan Turing (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist.
  • Bill Tutte OC FRS FRSC (14 May 1917 – 2 May 2002) was a British codebreaker and mathematician.
  • John Wallis (3 December 1616 – 8 November 1703) was an English clergyman and mathematician who is given partial credit for the development of infinitesimal calculus.
  • Johanna Weber (8 August 1910 – 24 October 2014) was a German-born British mathematician and aerodynamicist, best known for her contributions to the development of the Handley Page Victor bomber and the Concorde.
  • Gordon Welchman (15 June 1906 – 8 October 1985) was an English mathematician, university professor, Second World War codebreaker at Bletchley Park and author.
  • William Gordon Welchman (15 June 1906 – 8 October 1985) was an English mathematician, university professor, Second World War codebreaker at Bletchley Park and author.
  • Martha Annie Whiteley (11 November 1866 – 24 May 1956) was an English chemist and mathematician and tested Mustard Gas after its use by the Germans during World War One and wounded her own arm while testing it.
  • Christopher Zeeman FRS (4 February 1925 – 13 February 2016), was a British mathematician, known for his work in geometric topology and singularity theory.

Only 12 of the mathematicians are female, just under 15%. That’s a lower proportion than for the list as a whole.

So will a mathematician end up on our most valuable note? Nah, it’s going to be ruddy Thatcher, isn’t it?

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