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Papers of Harold Davenport
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Papers of Harold Davenport

  • DAVT
  • Fonds
  • 1911–1986

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Series A, Biographical and personal papers, includes Davenport's unpublished reminiscences and reflections on his life's work, written shortly before his death with the assistance of his wife and his colleague D. J. Lewis (A.8-10).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.

Davenport, Harold (1907-1969) mathematician

Research notes and drafts

This series has been organized into five subgroups: Collaboration with Helmut Hasse (E.1-15), Titled and untitled drafts (E.16-83), Miscellaneous notes and calculations (E.84-102), Notes on work by others (E.103-126), and Work by others (E.127-135).

Many of the drafts in Titled and untitled drafts were probably intended to form lectures or papers for publication, while others may be no more than extensive notes. A number of these are untitled and very few are dated.

The Notes on work by others falls into two parts: notes made by Davenport at lectures given by others (E.103-E.117) and notes made by him on a particular publication, or line of work, of another (E.118-E.126) Although in many cases Davenport gave the date of publication of the work, few of these notes are themselves dated. Therefore they have been arranged in alphabetical order, with the exception of E.125-126, where the contents of one of Davenport's own folders have been kept together.

Of special interest in the last subgroup Work by others is E.131, a selection and discussion of research problems by J. E. Littlewood, and Davenport's comments on them. This subgroup has been arranged in alphabetical order.

Faculty of Mathematics, Cambridge

This series consists of committee notices and reports, with some correspondence and examination papers as well. The papers are arranged into six subgroups: General committees (F.1-6), Needs of faculty and sub-departments (F.7-9), Appointments (F.10-12), Requests for post-graduate places (F.13), Examination papers (F.14-16), and Miscellaneous (F.17). The Needs of faculty and sub-departments papers largely consist of Statements of Needs of various departments, in various areas, such as teaching staff, new equipment, etc. The Appointments material relates to the Appointments Committee of the Faculty of Mathematics. There is also a little correspondence re vacant posts, applications, requests for curricula vitae, etc.

Correspondence

The correspondence includes several substantial exchanges of letters, however, many of them are incoming only, sometimes with a brief ms. note by Davenport of his reply on which ensuing correspondence may be based. Mrs. Davenport's notes identifying correspondents and their connections with Davenport often accompany the letters and were drawn upon in compiling the entries.

The content is essentially mathematical though some personal news from Davenport's long-term friends, colleagues and pupils may be included. Davenport's long association with German mathematicians, many of whom became refugees in British universities including Cambridge, is well documented; these are wholly or partly in German. Of special interest are the extensive exchanges with E. Bombieri, G. H. Hardy, H. A. Heilbronn, K. Mahler and L. J. Mordell.

Mordell, a distinguished mathematician of American origin, with a special interest in number theory, was Fielden Professor of Mathematics at Manchester when Davenport took his first degree there. The Manchester School of Mathematics was particularly strong in the 1930s, and included several refugee mathematicians; Davenport also joined it as Assistant Lecturer in 1937. Mordell succeeded Hardy in the Sadleirian Chair at Cambridge 1945-1953 and remained in contact with Cambridge mathematics until his death in 1972. Davenport was among his closest friends. Mordell recognized his quality from a very early stage (see G.208), helped him to share his own special interest in the geometry of numbers, and, according to J. W. S. Cassels, looked on Davenport as ‘his spiritual heir’ (Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 19, 1973, pp. 493-520).

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