Adams, John Frank (1930-1989), mathematician

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Adams, John Frank (1930-1989), mathematician

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Frank Adams was born in Woolwich on 5 November 1930. He was educated at Bedford School and won an Open Scholarship to Trinity College Cambridge in 1949 where he studied mathematics.

Following his graduation he began research at Cambridge, initially under A. S. Besicovitch then under S. Wylie, and received his PhD in 1955. Adams was appointed to a Junior University Lecturership in 1955 and was a Research Fellow at Trinity College Cambridge 1955-58. He spent 1957-58 studying at the University of Chicago and at Princeton as a Commonwealth Fellow.

On his return to Cambridge Adams was appointed Fellow, College Lecturer and Director of Studies in Mathematics at Trinity Hall, posts held until 1962 when he took up a Readership at Manchester University. In 1964 Adams succeeded M. H. A. Newman as Fielden Professor of Pure Mathematics there.

In 1970 Adams returned to Trinity College Cambridge as a Fellow when he was appointed to the Lowndean Chair of Astronomy and Geometry in succession to Sir William Hodge, a position he held until his death in January 1989.

Adams's most important area of research was in homotopy theory. He developed the algebraic system known as the Adams Spectral Sequence and did pioneering work on cohomology operations in K-theory. In 1965 he introduced the Adams conjecture (now the Adams theorem) into the study of K- theory.

His outstanding achievements in mathematics were recognised by his election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1964 (while still only 34) and the award of the Society's Sylvester Medal in 1982. Adams was also elected a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences and an Honorary Member of the Royal Danish Academy; in 1986 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Heidelberg.


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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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