John Airey's father, William Airey was born about 1843 in Preston Lancashire. He was a stone mason. John's mother, Elizabeth Airey born about 1844 also in Preston. John had three younger siblings, Elizabeth Ann (born 1870), Edwin (born about 1878) and Maud (born about 1880). In the 1871 census, when John was 2 years old the family was living at Hunslet and in 1881 they were living at 28 Grosvenor Street, West Leeds.
John Airey was educated at Blenheim Board School and Leeds Central High School. He then took up a teaching post at Leeds Central High School while, at the same time, studying at Yorkshire College for a University of London external B.Sc. He was awarded the degree in 1894.
Airey taught as a Mathematics Master at Porth Intermediate School, Glamorganshire, until 1903 when, at the age of 35, he gave up his job to matriculate at St John's College, Cambridge to study the Natural Science Tripos. He was awarded his B.A. in 1906, with first class honours in both Part I and Part II. The quality of his performance is indicated by the fact the he was awarded the Wright, Hockin and Hughes Prizes.
After graduating, Airey became headmaster of Morley Grammar School, holding the post from 1906 to 1912. He was principal of the West Ham Technical Institute 1912-1918, and principal of the City of Leeds Training College 1918-33. He became a member of the Mathematical Tables Committee of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1911 and was its secretary 1916-29. He was co-editor of the Philosophical Magazine. In the Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation, in Proceedings of the London Physical Society, and in Reports of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, he published many of his tables. His brother, Sir Edwin Airey was head of a large firm of building contractors and engineers.
In 1910 Airey married Gwenllian (born Ystradyfodwg, Glamorgan about 1880).
Here are a few examples of the fine papers he produced while carrying out highly demanding jobs:
John R Airey, The Roots of the Neumann and Bessel Functions, Proc. Phys. Soc. London 23 (1910), 219-224.
John R Airey, The Vibrations of Circular Plates and their Relation to Bessel Functions, Proc. Phy. Soc. London 23 (1) (1910-1911), 225-.
John R Airey, Sines and cosines of angles in circular measure, British Association for the Advancement of Science Report 1916, 60-91.
John R Airey, The Lommel-Weber Ω Function and Its Application to the Problem of Electric Waves on a Thin Anchor Ring, Proc. Roy. Soc. London, Series A, 94 (661) (1918), 307-314.
John R Airey. Zonal Harmonics of High Order in Terms of Bessel Functions, Proc. Roy. Soc. London, Series A, 96 (674) (1919), 1-8.
John R Airey, The Radiation Integrals, Phil. Mag. 25 (167) (1938), 273-282.
Airey joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in November 1913 when he was the Principal of The Technical Institute, West Ham, London. He remained a member of the Society for the rest of his life. He was also a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1912.
His obituary appeared in Obituary: John Robinson Airey, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 98 (1938), 243-244.
We give a version of this obituary at THIS LINK.
Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson