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'An Autobiography by Lucy Joan Slater of Cambridge': Chapter 8: Becoming a Mathematician, 1990

Reference Code: GBR/0271/GCPP Slater 1/8

Scope and Contents

Pages 109-123 (there is no page 108). L J S begins the chapter by recalling early influences on her as a mathematician, particularly Miss Amelia Trout, and Professor Davies. Coming towards the end of her honours degree, she attended various interviews for teaching and was offered various posts but decided on research instead. She attended interviews at both Westfield College and Bedford College in London. At the latter she was interviewed by Prof W N Bailey who was ‘looking for some mathematically minded girls to form an MA class’. She recalls Bailey in some detail, including his work on hypergeometric functions, his Cambridge connections with Ramanujan, his work with F H Jackson and his work with her, L J S, on a book on generalized hypergeometric functions, which she finished after his death. F H J and W N B ‘were both Northerners, so my Lancashire accent was no barrier to my progress’ [L J S mentions her accent from time to time and says she was even turned down for some jobs because of it].
L J S and her mother moved to London and she studied for her MA from 1947-49 at Bedford College, where W N B mounted a lecture course on Hypergeometric Functions solely for her and her one fellow student, Margaret Jackson. She mentions that Bedford students had created a ‘sensation in Cambridge by wearing their academic gowns in public’ while evacuated to St John’s College during the war. She describes the poor state of the buildings of Bedford College after the war. After finishing her MA L J S wrote ‘my first thesis. This was - - - on Generalized Hypergeometric Series’ - she discusses this in some detail. She also attended some lectures at Imperial College and UCL and ‘sucked in every branch of Mathematics which interested me - - - ‘. At Imperial she ‘met some old friends - - - who showed me a strange machine which could play noughts and crosses with me. ‘One day, it will be able to do calculations‘ said one of them’. She tells an anecdote about the accidental release of radioactive frogs from a lab at UCL. April 1949 saw ‘my first visit to Cambridge and the first time I had seen an electronic computer’. She describes the lab, the machine and being asked for her advice.
L J S undertook a London PhD from 1949-51, continuing to attend courses at Bedford College and UCL. In 1950 she had two papers accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society; she won the Ruth Wilkes prize at Bedford ‘for outstanding work in Mathematics’; she was made a Research Fellow of Bedford College; and she was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society.


  • Creation: 1990



1 file(s) : Paper

Language of Materials



Slater, Lucy Joan

Finding aid date

2013-05-28 09:52:24+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Girton College Archive Repository

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