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Dame Mary Cartwright

10 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 08 March 2013

Lisa Jardine celebrates the achievements of the mathematician Dame Mary Cartwright, the first woman mathematician to be elected to the Royal Society.

During World War Two, she responded to a request from the British government to address an issue with early and still-secret radar systems. Together with her colleague Professor J. E. Littlewood, they were able to help war-time radar engineers circumvent a problem that was making radar unreliable.

Her findings were not fully understood by her peers at first. It would take a generation before mathematicians realised that her discoveries were the foundation of what became a new field of science: chaos theory.

Dame Mary Cartwright was very modest and did not want eulogies at her funeral, but Lisa Jardine takes the opportunity of International Woman's Day to blow Dame Mary's trumpet on her behalf.

  • A Point of View: Mary, queen of maths

    BBC News

    Maths genius Mary Cartwright was a modest soul and one of the early founders of chaos theory. It's time we recognised her massive contribution, says historian Lisa Jardine.


    Read Lisa Jardine's article on BBC News website.


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