Winifred Margaret Deans


Born: 9 October 1901 in New Milton, Hampshire, England
Died: 7 Jun 1990 in Milltimber, Peterculter, Aberdeenshire, Scotland


Winifred Deans' parents were Duncan Deans, a hosiery buyer from Aberdeenshire, and Mary Ann Sharp from Aberdeen. They were married on 18 November 1897 in Aberdeen and had two children, Winifred and her brother Maxwell born in 1907. Winifred studied at the University of Aberdeen, graduating with an MA with First Class Honours in Mathematics in 1922. In the following year she was awarded a B.Sc. also from Aberdeen. She then followed the route followed by many in earlier years and, after taking a Scottish degree, went to Cambridge. Deans studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, and took Part I of the Mathematical Tripos in 1925, being awarded a BA ranked in the First Class.

Deans was then appointed Assistant Mathematics and Physics Mistress at the County Secondary School for Girls, in Harrow, but after two years returned to Aberdeen where she was awarded a Diploma in Education in 1927. However, Deans decided to leave teaching and, in 1927, took a position as an Assistant Science Editor with Messrs Blackie and Sons, Ltd., who were well-known publishers based in Glasgow.

With Blackie and Son, Deans used both her knowledge of mathematics and physics, together with her language skills, to become a leading translator of German texts. For example she translated Selected Papers on Wave Mechanics by L de Broglie and L Brillouin and her translation was published by Blackie and Sons in 1928. Her translation of Richard Gans' Vector analysis and applications to physics was published in 1931 and, in the following year, her translation of Pohl Robert Wichard's Physical Principles of Mechanics and Acoustics. Other translations by Deans include The structure of molecules, written by Peter J W Debye, Perhaps her most famous translations from German to English, however, are Max Born's The restless universe which was published by Blackie and Sons in 1935 and the 1939 publication Greenland journey, the story of Wegener's German expedition to Greenland in 1930-31 as told by members of the expedition and the leader's diary edited by Else Wegener, with the assistance of Dr Fritz Loewe, translated from the 7th German edition by Winifred M Deans.

In 1945, after World War II, Deans was appointed to the Commonwealth Bureau of Animal Nutrition at Aberdeen's Rowett Institute. She remained working there until she reached retirement age in 1966. Her papers are now held by the Library of the University of Aberdeen:-

After considerable sorting and some weeding, Winifred's library was distributed amongst the University's Special Collections and the general library stock. Eleven boxes of personal papers belonging to her and her brother, Maxwell (1907-83), were deposited in the University Archives. These personal papers include University lecture notes taken whilst studying in Aberdeen and subsequently, 1919-31; 29 issues of 'My Magazine', dating from the early 20th Century; albums of family photographs and postcards, late 19C- c1940; together with miscellaneous notes on Swedish history and other topics.

The latest acquisition comprises an 'Official Guide: Empire Exhibition Scotland 1938', a season ticket issued to Winifred Deans, and official Exhibition lettercards and postcards showing images of the exhibition sites and buildings, in both sepia and colour views. The most appealing of these is a booklet of Valentine's Snapshots, containing 12 beautiful photographs of the night-time illuminations of the Exhibition lake and fountains.


Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

November 2007


MacTutor History of Mathematics
[http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Deans.html]