Edward Thomas Copson

Born: 21 Aug 1901 in Coventry, England
Died: 16 Feb 1980 in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

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Educated at St John's College Oxford, Edward Copson was greatly influenced by Love and Hardy. He graduated in 1922 and was appointed by Whittaker to a lecturing post in Edinburgh in the same year. Whittaker interviewed Copson on the platform of Windemere station and offered him a lectureship in Edinburgh while on the train.

Copson remained at Edinburgh until 1930 when he became a lecturer at St Andrews under Turnbull. He spent 1934 in Greenwich, then returned to the University of St Andrews but this time to a chair of mathematics at Queen's College, Dundee (Queen's College became the University of Dundee in the 1960's). In 1950 he was appointed to fill Turnbull's Regius Chair of Mathematics in St Andrews.

Copson studied classical analysis, asymptotic expansions, differential and integral equations and problems in theoretical physics. His most famous book The theory of functions of a complex variable (1935) sold so well in the USA that an extension on his house built with the profits he called The American Wing .

In all Copson wrote six books, all of which demonstrate his great skill as an expositor. Asymptotic expansions (1965) was written because he was pressed to write a more major work on that subject to expand on a shorter work written in 1943 at the request of the Admiralty.

As a lecturer he was outstanding, he gave lectures of remarkable clarity. A colleague wrote:-

He firmly believed in the old Scottish tradition of the Professor lecturing on a sizeable part of the first-year syllabus: he did so entirely without notes, relying solely on his pocket diary to mark how far he had gone each day.
His students, always aware that their teacher was a master of his subject, nevertheless sometimes played practical jokes. By the 1960's Copson was hard of hearing and wore a hearing aid. However he always turned it off when he lectured and alarm clocks were sometimes brought into the lecture room and would ring loudly at various times.

References (2 books/articles)

References elsewhere in this archive:

Edward T Copson was elected an honorary member of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in 1979. You can see a history of the EMS and a list of the honorary fellows.

Other Web sites:

Some information about Copson-de Bruijn Constants

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JOC/EFR December 1996