This page is to collect together source material on the history of the School of Mathematics at Manchester, especially its precursor departments at the Victoria University of Manchester (VUM) and the Univeristy of Manchester Institute of Sciecne and Technology (UMIST). Maintained by Bill Lionheart


The library archivist found for me Alan Turing's staff card and a page from a University Calendar that gives his post. Here is a scanned pdf


Documents The following are exerpts from letters of reminicences from former staff.

Letter re Frank Bowman from Ron Butler to John Parkinson dated 5-4-93

I joined UMIST (then Manchester College of Technology) in December 1948, i.e. 45 years ago, although I had taught evening classes in Physics for 3 years previously. But the 'Old Building' opened in 1903 as far as I recall i.e. 45 years before my time, so half its life is more or less in the dark ages. Nevertheless, most of these were dominated by Bowman's presence as student, lecturer and Head of Department.


From 1903-1907 is not annoted(?) except in the official annals. FB entered Civil Engineering from a Manchester school (I forget which) in 1907 and Prescott(?) was so impressed with his mathematical ability that he got him a place in Cambridge where he was presumably c. 1910. He spent the First World War in the Navy and he was at the Battle of Jutland (his finest hour). He returned as lecturer after the war and when Prescott left (1933) he became Head of Department which he was until Kynch came in 1957 (check) – some 24 years. He was a member of LMS (London Mathematical Society) and published applied problems solved by elliptic forms (?) – utterly obscure for Applied mathematicians. On his staff was S. Verblunsky who became Prof. at Queen’s Belfast around 1939. He was very friendly with L.J. Mordell at Owens. The war years were hectic for the staff. I believe they held classes for the RAF as an extra.

The staff was of two kinds: University and non-University. The latter taught ONC, HNC and similar classes, as did University staff if need be. The non-U group included (little!) Tyldesley and Hawkes (Ask SVF (Sid Fagg)). The non-University courses left UMIST around 1957. SVF joined in 1946 or 7 and Shenton and Stanley Tibbs (?) around the same time. Tibbs died of cancer in 1953. Hunter (?) was there all through the war but you’ll have to ask UMIST when he joined. He, like F.B. was a scholar and a good teacher. He died in 1949 I think and Harry Hogg replaced him. Other people who came and went around 1950-54 say are Rose (he was a demonstrator and published a paper a week) now at Nottingham I think, Lakins who left for Salford Tech. (now Univ.), Hallworth who is, unless he has retired, Prof. of Ind. Maths at Leeds, Howie a statistician from Glasgow to which he returned. F.B. with Hunter and then Tibbs, were in Velvet House on 1st floor. The rest of us were in famous F12. F12 was above the main Chem theatre and had been designed as a Prep room so that an iron staircase when down its opening being boarded up in F12 so we had a very large circular groove on the floor. Also bad egg smells on occasions.

Bowden came in 1953 and expansion soon began. The framework of the Main Building extensions had been left since the slump of the 30’s so these were completed almost to plan. The exceptions were a swimming pool on the top floor – it became a gymnasium used for exams and the omission of a steam and dynamos etc. to provide UMIST's power. The latter was to be in a sunken area near the Royce lab. More staff came including Tennant-Smith I think. Around 1960 I moved to Velvet House. The room over the entrance and had an open fire daily for heating! Why I was moved by Kynch I don’t know unless it was because I ran the Mechanics lab there. The Renold Building was started around 1960 and we got the top two floors, all being moved over by 1962. Kynch did all these arrangements. (P.S. Yes I was given the enormous task of seeing (?) us in the Maths building and doing everything else for Kynch quit all meetings.) The department then started to get things like telephones (there wasn’t one in F.B.'s days – or a typist. He brought his hand written notices round, you read it and signed!) and a departmental grant (it was £5 in F.B.’s time). We got a secretary (Joan Longden, now secretary to the Librarian at Owens) and started to have 3 p.m. tea. More staff came. Frank Foster joined me, John Shepperd and Mrs. Neumann came from Hull etc. A Prof of Pure was with us for a short time.

Computing had come in but Kynch didn’t like it and so Stanley Gill was appointed part-time Prof. in the department. He left later and by the end of the 60’s Richards and Black were in the department. They split off around 1972 (MBP: Actually 1970). You must know of the multiple staff changes – Priestley came from Owens, Shenton left to Virginia Polytechnic in the States.

Sid Fagg can doubtless enlarge on the post-war period and Harry Hogg has a collection of letters from Bowman. I have some from him. You know that in 1983 F.B. Got the first ever UMIST gold medal. The portrait by (John) Chirnside was painted in the 70's at my request with money I got from the R. Chem. Soc. Virtually on the day of FB's death his last paper came out – I had sent it to the IMA. It is in Vol. 19 Nos. 11 and 12, Nov/Dec 1983 p197. Look it up for it contains a detailed summary of F.B.'s career.

F.B.'s son-in-law has a fantastic memory and supplied me with many details. His address .... His son who was at UMIST during the war and so knows it well is K. Bowman....

NotesA photo of the portrait of Bowman can be found on Wikipedia.
The paper refered is Bowman, F. Central motion under an attractive force varying inversely as the fourth power of the distance. Bull., Inst. Math. Appl. 19, 197-200 (1983). Zbl 0546.70006 MR0733334 (85a:70008)
More details on William Hunter can be found in his obituary written by Bowman. Bowman, F. William Hunter, J. Lond. Math. Soc. 25, 353-354 (1950) with links to the catalogue..

George Henry Livens

Francis Livens is a Chemistry professor here at Manchester and he has donated this photograph of his grandfather George Henry Livens to the School of Mathematics and licensed it under Creative Commons. George henry Livens