Fonds DAVT - Papers of Harold Davenport

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Papers of Harold Davenport


  • 1911–1986 (Creation)

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60 boxes

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Biographical history

Davenport was born and educated in Accrington, where his gifts for mathematics and chemistry were early recognised. At the age of sixteen he was awarded scholarships to attend Manchester University (1924-1927), where he won first-class honours and the respect of such tutors as L. J. Mordell and E. A. Milne. The latter encouraged him to enter for a scholarship at Trinity College Cambridge, where he read for the Tripos (1927-1929), began research with J. E. Littlewood, won the Rayleigh Prize (1931) and a Trinity Fellowship (1932-1937). Another important event of this period was Davenport's acceptance of an invitation by H. Hasse to stay with him in Marburg, a visit which enabled Davenport to meet several distinguished German mathematicians and to learn the language thoroughly.

Davenport's first university post was a return to Manchester as Assistant Lecturer (1937-1941) and in 1941 he was appointed to his first Chair at University College of North Wales, Bangor. In 1945 Davenport, who had married Anne Lofthouse in 1944, moved to University College London as Astor Professor. His first American visit, to Stanford in 1947-1948, was followed by many later transatlantic journeys of varying duration. While at the Mathematics Department of University College Davenport launched the new journal Mathematika in 1953. In 1958 he was elected Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and held those positions until his death in 1969.

Archival history

The material was received by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from Mrs. Anne Davenport at various dates 1983 - 84. A little additional material was received from Professor B.J. Birch in 1986.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Acquired from the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, 1986.

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Scope and content

The papers consist of correspondence, school notebooks, research notes and drafts, diaries, photographs, and publications documenting most aspects of Davenport's life and work. His contributions to his subject as student, teacher, writer and researcher, are well documented and the collection as a whole is of pedagogical interest. Less fully represented are his extensive travels for visits and conferences (which can sometimes only be deduced from a jotted heading on a lecture script) and his work for the London Mathematical Society.

The 60 boxes of material are organised into seven series: Biographical and personal papers, School and university notebooks and lecture notes, Lectures and addresses, Publications, Research notes and drafts, Faculty of Mathematics, Cambridge and Correspondence.

Series A, Biographical and personal papers, includes Davenport's unpublished reminiscences and reflections on his life's work, written shortly before his death with the assistance of his wife and his colleague D. J. Lewis (A.8-10). Other documentation on his career includes, unusually, his examination scripts and marks awarded at Manchester University in 1927 preserved by his principal tutor, L. J. Mordell (A.30-31).

Series B, School and university notebooks and lecture notes, is a record of mathematical teaching at Manchester 1924-1927 (B.23-54) and Cambridge 1927-1932 (B.55-92), by means of Davenport's notes, carefully taken and preserved, of lecture courses, class work and exercises.

Series C, Lectures and addresses, is a substantial section representing Davenport's own contribution to the teaching of mathematics from the 1930s as a Research Fellow in Cambridge through his various university appointments and lectures abroad, including the lectures at Michigan, later published in book form (C.115-124). Several of these contain sets of problems and solutions, and some examination material. On a less technical note is the address given in 1947 at Accrington Grammar School, Davenport's old school (C.131). A new generation in the filiation of mathematics is represented by the notes on Davenport's lectures at London in 1946 made by C. A. Rogers, his research student, collaborator and eventual successor as Astor Professor (C.167).

Series D, Publications, includes drafts, sometimes accompanied by correspondence with collaborators (see especially D.110-120) or publishers, for Davenport's many papers. These have been linked wherever possible to the numbered list in the Bibliography appended to the Royal Society Memoir by C. A. Rogers and others (Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 17, 1971). In addition, there is considerable material relating to work not listed in the official bibliography: this includes Davenport's books, The higher arithmetic (D.89-92) and Multiplicative number theory (D.170-182), book reviews (D.208), unpublished work (D.201-203) and a posthumous publication (D.207).

Series E, Research notes and drafts, contains a variety of material: paginated narrative sequences perhaps intended for lectures or papers, notes and calculations often on problems arising from work by others, and miscellaneous shorter unidentified notes. There is in consequence some potential overlap with other series, notably C and D. Of interest is the collaborative work with Helmut Hasse arising from Davenport's period in Marburg (E.1-15). Davenport's notes of lectures and talks by others (E.103-126) include mathematicians of an older generation (K. Mahler, L. J. Mordell, C. L. Siegel), friends and contemporaries (P. Erdös, H. A. Heilbronn), and pupils and successors (B. J. Birch, J. W. S. Cassels, C. A. Rogers, K. F. Roth). Another link in the pedagogic chain is J. E. Littlewood's extended list of 'Research Problems' and Davenport's 'Comments' (E.131)

Series F, Faculty of Mathematics, Cambridge, is small but includes a little material on research, examinations and the newly-created Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.

In Series G, Correspondence, Davenport's links as student, teacher and collaborator with several generations can be traced. Early correspondence with E. A. Milne (G.206) and L. J. Mordell (G.208) feature their recognition and fostering of Davenport's talent, and that with E. Bombieri (G.28-39), D. J. Lewis (G.175-184) and C. A. Rogers (G.268-278), among many others, indicate his continuing contributions. Special mention must be made of Davenport's close connection with German mathematicians, several of whom he met during his early visits to Marburg and elsewhere and whom he helped and encouraged when they were forced to emigrate: see his correspondence with H. A. Heilbronn (G.123-142), H. Kober (G.165), K. Mahler (G.194-201), and R. Rado (G.257). There is also correspondence with H. Hasse (G.116-122), who remained in Germany. Davenport's command of the language is evident both in the correspondence and in the drafts for lectures and papers elsewhere in the collection.

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  • English
  • German

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Finding aids

This record was prepared using a more detailed finding aid created by Jeannine Alton, Peter Harper and Margaret Erskine at the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre in 1986, reference number CSAC 112.3.86.

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Archivist's note

The current record was created using the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre finding aid, and was edited by Diana Smith in 2020-2021.

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