Arthur Lee Dixon

Born: 27 Nov 1867 in Pickering, Yorkshire, England
Died: 20 Feb 1955 in Sandgate, Kent, England

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Arthur Lee Dixon was the younger brother of Alfred Cardew Dixon. Arthur was educated at Kingswood School in Bath which he attended from 1879 to 1885. This school was a Methodist school founded by Wesley, the founder of Methodism. After leaving Kingswood School Arthur Dixon entered Worcester College, Oxford where he studied mathematics, graduating in 1889.

Arthur Dixon won a prize fellowship to Merton College, Oxford where he was appointed in 1891. Merton College was one of the Oxford Colleges with a strong historical mathematical connection, since the first school of mathematics there was organised by Thomas Bradwardine in the middle of the 14th century.

A further fellowship allowed Dixon to continue at Merton College until he was appointed to the Savilian chair of pure mathematics at Oxford in 1922. He held this chair until he retired in 1945.

Arthur Dixon always said that the biggest influences on his study of mathematics were Elliott, who inspired his particular line of research, and C L Dodgson who he once met. His mathematics, very much in the English tradition of Cayley, studied applications of algebra to geometry, elliptic functions and hyperelliptic functions.

In 1908 Dixon began a series of publications on algebraic eliminants, carrying the subject forward from the point where Cayley had left it. He also published a number of papers on the cubic surface, studying lines on the surface and other topics such as the Schur quadric. In the latter part of his career, Dixon published a series of around twelve joint paper with W L Ferrar on analytic number theory, summation formulas, Bessel functions and other topics in analysis.

In 1912 Arthur Dixon was honoured by being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also a strong supporter of the London Mathematical Society, serving as its President in 1924-26. His older brother, A C Dixon, would hold this same office five years later.

Arthur Dixon shared with Elliott, who had inspired him, an old-fashioned approach to mathematics. Chaundy, writing in [1], describes Dixon's feelings on this as follows:-

He had no great sympathy with much of the mathematics now in vogue. Matrices, he agreed, meant something; but so often in modern writing, when one had mastered a notation and terminology that were unfamiliar (and you suspected, repellent), one discovered it was something one had known all along.
Dixon had many talents in addition to his mathematical ones. He was a great sportsman who played hockey, tennis, squash and croquet. Another side of this many talented man was his skills as a linguist and his great musical talents (he played the flute in an orchestra).

Chaundy, in [1], describes Dixon's character:-

He was a man of the sunniest disposition, radiating bonhomie, welcome in every company and with a wide circle of friends. He was gentle in manner, somewhat reserved in speech, with a quiescence that was never to be thought inertia.

References (2 books/articles)

References elsewhere in this archive:

A L Dixon was the London Mathematical Society President in 1924 - 1926. You can see a history of the LMS and a list of the presidents.

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JOC/EFR October 1997