Harry Bateman


Harry Bateman
Harry Bateman sketch 1931.png
1931 drawing of Harry Bateman
Born(1882-05-29)29 May 1882
Manchester, England, UK
Died21 January 1946(1946-01-21) (aged 63)
Known forBateman Manuscript Project
Bateman–Burgers equation
Bateman equation
Bateman function
Bateman polynomials
Bateman transform
AwardsSenior Wrangler (1903)
Smith's Prize (1905)
Gibbs Lecture(1943)
Scientific career
FieldsGeometrical optics
Partial differential equations
Fluid dynamics
ThesisThe Quartic Curve and Its Inscribed Configurations[1] (1913)
Doctoral advisorFrank Morley
Doctoral studentsClifford Truesdell
Howard P. Robertson
Albert George Wilson

Harry Bateman FRS[2] (29 May 1882 – 21 January 1946) was an English mathematician.[3][4]

The differential equations of mathematical physics fascinated him. With Ebenezer Cunningham, he expanded the views of spacetime symmetry of Lorentz and Poincare to a more expansive conformal group of spacetime leaving Maxwell's equations invariant. Moving to the U.S.A., and obtaining a Ph.D. in geometry with Frank Morley, he became a professor of mathematics at California Institute of Technology. There he taught fluid dynamics to students going into aerodynamics with Theodore von Karman. Bateman made a broad survey of applied differential equations in his Gibbs Lecture in 1943 titled "The control of an elastic fluid".


Harry Bateman first grew to love mathematics at Manchester Grammar School, and in his final year, won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. Bateman studied with coach Robert Alfred Herman preparing for Cambridge Mathematical Tripos. He distinguished himself in 1903 as Senior Wrangler (tied with P.E. Marrack) and by winning the Smith's Prize (1905).[5] He published his first paper when he was still an undergraduate student on "The determination of curves satisfying given conditions".[6] He studied in Göttingen and Paris, taught at the University of Liverpool and University of Manchester before moving to the US in 1910. First he taught at Bryn Mawr College and then Johns Hopkins University. There, working with Frank Morley in geometry, he achieved the PhD, but he had already published more than sixty papers including some of his celebrated papers before getting his PhD. In 1917 he took up his permanent position at California Institute of Technology, then still called Throop Polytechnic Institute.

Eric Temple Bell says, "Like his contemporaries and immediate predecessors among Cambridge mathematicians of the first decade of this century [1901–1910]... Bateman was thoroughly trained in both pure analysis and mathematical physics, and retained an equal interest in both throughout his scientific career."[7]

Theodore von Kármán was called in as an advisor for a projected aeronautics laboratory at Caltech and later gave this appraisal of Bateman:[8]

In 1926 Cal Tech [sic] had only a minor interest in aeronautics. The professorship that came nearest to aeronautics was occupied by a shy, meticulous Englishman, Dr. Harry Bateman. He was an applied mathematician from Cambridge who worked in the field of fluid mechanics. He seemed to know everything but did nothing important. I liked him.

Harry Bateman married Ethel Horner in 1912 and had a son named Harry Graham, who died as a child, later the couple adopted a daughter named Joan Margaret. He died on his way to New York in 1946 of Coronary thrombosis.

Scientific contributions

In 1907, Harry Bateman was lecturing at the University of Liverpool together with another senior wrangler, Ebenezer Cunningham. Together they came up in 1908 with the idea of a conformal group of spacetime (now usually denoted as C(1,3))[9] which involved an extension of the method of images.[10]

Quantity calculation with the Bateman-Function for 241Pu

In nuclear physics, the Bateman equation is a mathematical model describing abundances and activities in a decay chain as a function of time, based on the decay rates and initial abundances. The model was formulated by Ernest Rutherford in 1905 and the analytical solution was provided by Harry Bateman in 1910.[11]

For his part, in 1910 Bateman published The Transformation of the Electrodynamical Equations.[12] He showed that the Jacobian matrix of a spacetime diffeomorphism which preserves the Maxwell equations is proportional to an orthogonal matrix, hence conformal. The transformation group of such transformations has 15 parameters and extends both the Poincaré group and the Lorentz group. Bateman called the elements of this group spherical wave transformations.[13]

In evaluating this paper, one of his students, Clifford Truesdell, wrote

The importance of Bateman's paper lies not in its specific details but in its general approach. Bateman, perhaps influenced by Hilbert's point of view in mathematical physics as a whole, was the first to see that the basic ideas of electromagnetism were equivalent to statements regarding integrals of differential forms, statements for which Grassmann's calculus of extension on differentiable manifolds, Poincaré's theories of Stokesian transformations and integral invariants, and Lie's theory of continuous groups could be fruitfully applied.[14]

Bateman was the first to apply Laplace transform to integral equation in 1906. He submitted a detailed report on integral equation in 1911 in the British association for the advancement of science.[15] Horace Lamb in his 1910 paper[16] solved an integral equation

as a double integral, but in his footnote he says, "Mr. H. Bateman, to whom I submitted the question, has obtained a simpler solution in the form"


In 1914, Bateman published The Mathematical Analysis of Electrical and Optical Wave-motion. As Murnaghan says, this book "is unique and characteristic of the man. Into less than 160 small pages is crowded a wealth of information which would take an expert years to digest."[4] The following year he published a textbook Differential Equations, and sometime later Partial differential equations of mathematical physics. Bateman is also author of Hydrodynamics and Numerical integration of differential equations. Bateman studied the Burgers' equation[17] long before Jan Burgers started to study.

Harry Bateman wrote two significant articles on the history of applied mathematics:

  • "The influence of tidal theory upon the development of mathematics"[18]
  • "Hamilton's work in dynamics and its influence on modern thought"[19]

In his Mathematical Analysis of Electrical and Optical Wave-motion (p. 131) he describes the charged-corpuscle trajectory as follows:

a corpuscle has a kind of tube or thread attached to it. When the motion of the corpuscle changes a wave or kink runs along the thread; the energy radiated from the corpuscle spreads out in all directions but is concentrated round the thread so that the thread acts as a guiding wire.

This figure of speech is not to be confused with a string in physics, for the universes in string theory have dimensions inflated beyond four, something not found in Bateman's work. Bateman went on to study the luminiferous aether with an article "The structure of the Aether".[20] His starting point is the bivector form of an electromagnetic field E + iB. He recalled Alfred-Marie Liénard's electromagnetic fields, and then distinguished another type he calls "aethereal fields":

When a large number of "aethereal fields" are superposed their singular curves indicate the structure of an "aether" which is capable of supporting a certain type of electromagnetic field.

Bateman received many honours for his contributions, including election to the Royal Society of London in 1928, election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1930. He was elected as vice-president of the American Mathematical Society in 1935 and was the Society's Gibbs Lecturer for 1943.[4][21] He was on his way to New York to receive an award from the Institute of Aeronautical Science when he died of coronary thrombosis. The Harry Bateman Research Instructorships at the California Institute of Technology are named in his honour.[22]

After his death, his notes on higher transcendental functions were edited by Arthur Erdélyi, Wilhelm Magnus, Fritz Oberhettinger [de], and Francesco G. Tricomi, and published in 1953.[23]


In a review of Bateman's book Partial Differential Equations of Mathematical Physics, Richard Courant says that "there is no other work which presents the analytical tools and the results achieved by means of them equally completely and with as many original contributions" and also "advanced students and research workers alike will read it with great benefit".

  • 1908: The Conformal Transformations of a Space of Four Dimensions and their Applications to Geometrical Optics, Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society 7: 70–89.
  • 1910: History and Present State of the Theory of Integral Equations, Report of the British Association.
  • 1914: (dissertation) The Quartic Curve and its Inscribed Configurations, American Journal of Mathematics 36(4).
  • 1915: The Mathematical Analysis of Electrical and Optical Wave-motion on the Basis of Maxwell's Equations, Cambridge University Press.
  • 1918: Differential equations, Longmans, Green, London, Reprint Chelsea 1966.
  • 1932: Partial Differential Equations of Mathematical Physics, Cambridge University Press 1932,[24] Dover 1944, 1959.
  • 1933: (with Albert A. Bennett, William E. Milne) Numerical Integration of Differential Equations, Bulletin of the National Research Council, Dover 1956.
  • 1932: (with Hugh Dryden, Francis Murnaghan) Report of the Committee on Hydrodynamics, Bulletin of the National Research Council, Washington D.C.
  • 1945: The Control of an Elastic Fluid, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society 51(9):601–646 via Project Euclid, also found in Selected Papers on Mathematical Trends in Control Theory (Richard Bellman & Robert Kalaba editors).
  • Bateman Manuscript Project: Higher Transcendental Functions, 3 vols., McGraw Hill 1953/1955, Krieger 1981.
  • Bateman Manuscript Project: Tables of Integral Transforms, 2 vols., McGraw Hill 1954.

See also


  1. ^ "Harry Bateman - the Mathematics Genealogy Project".
  2. ^ Erdélyi, Arthur (1947). "Harry Bateman. 1882–1946". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 5 (15): 590–618. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1947.0020. S2CID 179356952.
  3. ^ Erdélyi, Arthur (1946). "Harry Bateman". Journal of the London Mathematical Society. s1-21 (4): 300–310. doi:10.1112/jlms/s1-21.4.300.
  4. ^ a b c Murnaghan, Francis Dominic (1948). "Harry Bateman 1882–1946". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 54: 88–103. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1948-08955-8.
  5. ^ "Bateman, Harry (BTMN900H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  6. ^ 2. 1903. The determination of curves satisfying given conditions. Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 12, 163
  7. ^ Temple Bell, Eric (1946). Quarterly of Applied Mathematics (4): 105–111. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ von Kármán, Theodore; Edson, Lee (1967). The Wind and Beyond. Little, Brown and Company. p. 124.
  9. ^ Kosyakov, Boris Pavlovich (2007). Introduction to the Classical Theory of Particles and Fields. Berlin / Heidelberg, Germany: Springer. p. 216. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-40934-2. ISBN 978-3-540-40933-5.
  10. ^ Warwick, Andrew (2003). Masters of theory: Cambridge and the rise of mathematical physics. Chicago, Illinois, USA: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 416–424. ISBN 0-226-87375-7.
  11. ^ Bateman, H. (1910, June). The solution of a system of differential equations occurring in the theory of radioactive transformations. In Proc. Cambridge Philos. Soc (Vol. 15, No. pt V, pp. 423–427) [1]
  12. ^ Bateman, Harry (1910). "The Transformation of the Electrodynamical Equations". Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. s2-8: 223–264. doi:10.1112/plms/s2-8.1.223.
  13. ^ Bateman, Harry (1909). "The Conformal Transformations of a Space of Four Dimensions and Their Applications to Geometrical Optics". Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. s2-7: 70–89. doi:10.1112/plms/s2-7.1.70.
  14. ^ Truesdell III, Clifford Ambrose (1984). An idiot's fugitive essays on science: methods, criticism, training, circumstances. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag. pp. 403–438. ISBN 0-387-90703-3. Genius and the establishment at a polite standstill in the modern university: Bateman
  15. ^ Bateman, Harry (1911). "Report on the history and present state of the theory of integral equations". Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science: 345.
  16. ^ Lamb, Horace (1910-02-10) [1910-02-06]. "On the diffraction of a solitary wave". Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. 2 (1): 422–437. doi:10.1112/plms/s2-8.1.422.
  17. ^ Bateman, Harry (1915). "Some recent researches on the motion of fluids" (PDF). Monthly Weather Review. 43 (4): 163–170. Bibcode:1915MWRv...43..163B. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1915)43<163:srrotm>2.0.co;2.
  18. ^ Bateman, Harry (1943). "The Influence of Tidal Theory upon the Development of Mathematics". National Mathematics Magazine. 18 (1): 14–26. doi:10.2307/3029913. JSTOR 3029913.
  19. ^ Bateman, Harry (1944). "Hamilton's work in dynamics and its influence on modern thought". Scripta Mathematica (10): 51–63.
  20. ^ Bateman, Harry (1915). "The Structure of the Aether" (PDF). Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 21 (6): 299–309. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1915-02631-5.
  21. ^ Bateman, Harry (1945). "The control of an elastic fluid". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 51 (9): 601–646. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1945-08413-4. MR 0014548.
  22. ^ "Instructorships in Mathematics 2008–2009". Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  23. ^ Erdélyi, Arthur; Magnus, Wilhelm; Oberhettinger, Fritz; Tricomi, Francesco Giacomo (1953–1955). Higher Transcendental Functions. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
  24. ^ Walsh, Joseph L. (1933). "Bateman on Mathematical Physics". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 39 (3): 178–180. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1933-05561-1.

External links