George Barker Jeffery


Born: 9 May 1891 in London, England
Died: 27 April 1957 in London, England


George Jeffery came from a Quaker family and was educated at University College London. He entered the university in 1909 but his work in mathematics was so outstanding that at the end of his first year he was elected to a scholarship.

He did one years teacher training in 1911 but he was already undertaking research and his first paper On a form of the solution of Laplace's equation suitable for problems relating to two spheres was read to the Royal Society in 1912.

He returned to University College as research student and assistant to L N G Filon. He remained there until World War I when Filon was called to active service and Jeffery became head of the Applied Mathematics Department. However as a Quaker he became a conscientious objector. He was imprisoned for his views for a short time in 1916. However, after the War he returned to being Filon's assistant.

In 1922 he was appointed Professor of Mathematics at King's College London, becoming professor of Pure Mathematics at University College in 1924. Titchmarsh was already an assistant at University College and he became Jeffery's assistant on his appointment to the chair.

Jeffery's work was on the applications of mathematics, in particular he worked on hydrodynamics, viscous liquids and elasticity. He made effective use of Whittaker's general solution to Laplace's equation which Whittaker found in 1903. He introduced special types of harmonic functions for problems about the capacity for two charged conducting spheres.

Jeffery also worked on general relativity and produced exact solutions to Einstein's field equations in certain special cases. He wrote only one book and this was a teaching book on relativity Relativity for physics students (1924).

He had a reputation as a fine teacher and a skilled administrator. His chair of pure mathematics was, however, a little unfortunate as Jeffery had to leave many parts of that subject to his assistants. He made little research contribution to pure mathematics after his appointment and his excellent work in applied mathematics also ended rather soon after his appointment to the chair.

Jeffery was elected to the Royal Society in 1926, about the time his research papers dried up. He was President of the London Mathematical Society from 1935 until 1937.

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

December 1996


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