Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of EDWARD HUBERT LINFOOT Sc.D. (1905 - 1982)

This record is held by Cambridge University Library: Department of Manuscripts and University Archives

Details of NCUACS 9.2.89
Reference: NCUACS 9.2.89
Title: Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of EDWARD HUBERT LINFOOT Sc.D. (1905 - 1982)









The collection is of particular interest for the material relating to wartime research and to consultancies on the design of optical systems for commercial and other organisations.


Section A, Biographical, is very slight but includes published biographical accounts and a number of letters from mathematical colleagues.


Section B, Research, is predominantly material relating to wartime research which is introduced by Linfoot's own lists detailing his Second World War projects. The Ministries of Aircraft Production and Supply are both represented in the documentation, and there is correspondence with scientific colleagues such as N F Mott of Bristol and L C Martin of Imperial College London and technical papers of the Telecommunications Research Establishment mathematics group. There is some postwar material relating to work on Schmidt and related optical systems.


Section C. Consultancies, is presented alphabetically by organisation, and records Linfoot's work for firms and others on both sides of the Atlantic including EMI, Farrand Optical Company and the Perkin-Elmer Corporation. The most extensive documentation relates to the Isaac Newton telescope (presented under Grubb Parsons) and the University of St Andrews telescope.


Section D, Publications, Lectures, Conferences, presents a chronological sequence of drafts and related correspondence. The largest body of material relates to Linfoot's unpublished book on almost periodic functions (completed at Princeton 1929-31), and comprises a typescript draft and correspondence with the Clarendon Press Oxford and colleagues in Britain, Germany and the USA. Section D also includes material relating to a mathematics colloquium organised by Linfoot and H Heilbronn at Bristol in 1935 and to postwar optics conferences.


Compiled by Peter Harper and Timothy E Powell


The work of the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, and the production of this catalogue, are made possible by the support of the following societies and organisations:


The Biochemical Society


The British Library


The City of Bath


The Geological Society


The Institute of Physics


Pergamon Books


The Royal Society


The Royal Society of Chemistry


The Society of Chemical Industry


We are very grateful to Mrs Linfoot for making the material available, and for her help and encouragement.

Date: 1882-1967
Related material:

Notebooks recording Linfoot's optics research form an earlier deposit in Cambridge University Library.


Notebooks recording mathematics lectures attended by Linfoot 1924-32 were deposited in the Library of Trinity College Cambridge in 1984. The Library has provided the following list of the material:


Notes from lectures on the theory of functions given by G H Hardy at Oxford, 4 vols, 1925-27 and nd Add.Ms.b.179-182


Notes from lectures on the theory of numbers given by G H Hardy at Oxford, 2 vols, 1924-25. Add.Ms.b.183-4


Notes from lectures on transfinite numbers etc., given by G H Hardy at Oxford, 1925 Add.Ms.b.185


Notes from lectures on the distribution of primes given by G H Hardy at Oxford, 1926 Add.Ms.b.186


Notes from lectures on Fourier series and the summation of series given by G H Hardy at Oxford nd Add.Ms.b.187


Notes from lectures on Dirichlet series given by G H Hardy at Oxford, 1926 Add.Ms.b.188


Notes from miscellaneous lectures given by G H Hardy at Oxford, 1925-28. Add.Ms.b.189


Notes from tutorials on real functions given by A S Besicovitch at Oxford, 1925-26 Add.Ms.b.190


Notes from lectures on continuous groups given by B L van de Waerden at Gottingen, 1929, and class field theory given by E Artin at Gottingen, 1932 Add.Ms.b.191


Notes from lectures on almost periodic functions given by H A Bohr at Gottingen, 2 vols, 1928-29 Add.Ms.b.192-3


Notes from lectures on Waring's problem given by L D Landau at Gottingen, 1929 Add.Ms.b.194


Notes from lectures on Schlicht functions given by L D Landau at Gottingen 1929 Add.Ms.b.195


Notes from lectures on dynamics, wave mechanics and quantum theory given by H P Robertson and J von Neumann at Princeton, 3 vols, 1929-30 Add.Ms.b.196-198


Notes from lectures on dimension and Menger's theorem given by P S Aleksandrov at Princeton, 1931 Add.Ms.b.199

Held by: Cambridge University Library: Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Linfoot, Edward Hubert, 1905-1982, scientist, mathematician and astronomer

Physical description: 4 series
Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were received in November 1988 and February 1989 from Mrs Joyce Linfoot.

Administrative / biographical background:

Edward Hubert Linfoot was born in Sheffield in 1905. He was educated at King Edward VII School Sheffield and Balliol College Oxford, taking his BA in mathematics with first class honours in 1926. He obtained his D.Phil with a thesis on almost periodic functions in 1928 and spent 1928-29 at Göttingen and 1929-31 at Princeton as the Jane Eliza Proctor Fellow. On his return to England he taught at Balliol until his appointment in 1932 as Assistant Lecturer and then Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Bristol. In 1935 he married Joyce Dancer, herself an able mathematician, and they had a daughter and son born in 1945 and 1947, respectively.


In the years before the Second World War Linfoot's interests shifted from pure mathematics to optics, particularly the Schmidt telescope and related optical systems such as the Schmidt-Cassegrain. Among the factors stimulating his interest in optics were the presence of C R Burch at Bristol, and his conviction that political developments in Germany would lead to war and that optics would have an important role to play in the conflict. In addition to theoretical contributions he mastered the practical skills involved in figuring optical surfaces and in 1939 the Physical Society exhibited a pair of aspheric microscopes constructed by him. During the war Linfoot did substantial work on photographic aerial reconnaissance for the Ministry of Aircraft Production. He was also associated with N F Mott's research group which worked on a number of urgent technical problems for the Ministry of Supply.


In 1948 his professional standing in mathematical optics was recognised by his appointment as Assistant Director and John Couch Adams Astronomer at the Cambridge Observatory; he retired in 1970. His arrival in Cambridge coincided with the development of the EDSAC I computer and he was a pioneer in the use of computers in the solution of optical problems. He continued work on Schmidt and related optical systems and acted as consultant on a number of telescope projects including the Isaac Newton and St Andrews telescopes. In addition to his many scientific papers Linfoot published two books, Recent Advances in Optics in 1955 and Fourier Methods in Optical Image Evaluation in 1964. Linfoot died in 1982 aged 77.


For further details of Linfoot's career see the obituary notices in Bull. London Math. Soc. 16 (1984), 52-58 and Q.Jl R. astr.Soc. 25 (1984) 219-222.

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