Papers and correspondence of Harold Davenport, 1907-1969

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers, which are substantial, cover most aspects of his life and work. The biographical and personal material includes Davenport's own unpublished reminiscences and reflections on his life's work, made shortly before his death with the assistance of his wife and a colleague, D.J. Lewis. Other documentation of his career includes, unusually, his examination scripts and marks awarded at Manchester University in 1927, preserved by his principal tutor L.J. Mordell. There are university notebooks and lecture notes which record mathematical teaching in Manchester, 1924-1927, and Cambridge, 1927-1932, and substantial documentation of Davenport's own contribution to mathematics teaching from the 1930s as a Research Fellow in Cambridge through his various university appointments and invitation lectures abroad. There are also drafts for publications, research notes including collaborative work with H. Hasse arising from the Marburg period, and notes on the lectures of others including mathematicians of an earlier generation (K. Mahler, L.J. Mordell, C.L. Siegel), Davenport's friends and contemporaries (P. Erds, H.A. Heilbronn) and his pupils and successors (B.J. Birch, J.W.S. Cassels, C.A. Rogers, K.F. Roth). The correspondence includes some substantial exchanges with colleagues such as E. Bombieri, D.J. Lewis and C.A. Rogers. Also reflected in the correspondence is Davenport's close connection with German mathematicians, several of whom he met on his early visits to Marburg and whom he helped and encouraged when they were forced to emigrate in the 1930s. Examples are H.A. Heilbronn, H. Kober, K. Mahler, and R. Rado. There is also correspondence with H. Hasse who remained in Germany.

Administrative / Biographical History

Davenport was born in Accrington and educated at Accrington Grammar School where his gifts for mathematics and chemistry were recognised. At the age of sixteen he was awarded scholarships to attend Manchester University, 1924-1927, winning first class honours and the respect of tutors such as L.J. Mordell and E.A. Milne (q.v.). The latter encouraged him to enter for a scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read for the Tripos, 1927-1929, began research with J.E. Littlewood, won a Rayleigh Prize in 1931 and a Trinity Fellowship, 1932-1937. Another important event of this period was Davenport's acceptance of an invitation by H. Hasse to stay with him at Marburg University, a visit which enabled him to meet several distinguished German mathematicians and to learn the language thoroughly. His first university post was a return to Manchester as Assistant Lecturer, 1937-1941, and in 1941 he was appointed to his first Chair at University College of North Wales, Bangor. In 1945 Davenport moved to University College, London as Astor Professor. It was from the Mathematics Department at University College that Davenport launched the new journal Mathematika in 1953. In 1958 he was elected Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he died in 1969. Davenport's mathematical research included work on the geometry of numbers and on diophantine approximation, the analytic theory of diophantine equations, and multiplicative number theory. He was elected FRS in 1940 (Sylvester Medal 1967).


By section as follows: Biographical and personal, School and university notebooks and lecture notes, Lectures and addresses, Publications, Research notes and drafts, Faculty of Mathematics, Correspondence. Bibliography. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

By appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Harold Davenport (1907-1969) by J. Alton, P. Harper and M. Erskine, CSAC catalogue no. 112/3/86, 142 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1983-1984 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from Mrs Anne Davenport, widow. A little additional material was received in 1986 from Professor B.J. Birch. Deposited in Trinity College in 1986.