Papers of Walter Ledermann

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of manuscript and typescript correspondence (largely letters from) Sir Godfrey Thomson between 1937 and 1954. The material includes: sheaf of correspondence (dated Feb. 1937 - Dec. 1937), Thomson to Ledermann / Horst (36 letters/postcards/items); sheaf of correspondence (dated New Years Day 1938 - Dec. 1938), Thomson to Ledermann, and some Ledermann to Thomson (58 letters/postcards/items) including one M.S. Bartlett to Thomson (a typescript letter on estimation); and, a sheaf of correspondence (dated 1939 - 1954), Thomson to Ledermann, and Thomson to Herdan (circa 50 letters/postcards/items).

The mathematical subjects within the letters range from factorial analysis, pentad criterion, multivariate selection, correlation between estimation and selection, Bartlett's method of estimating factors, boundary conditions, minimum trace and minimum Thorstone rank, tetrad criterion, univariate selection, profile correlations and Thurstone residues, Spearman matrix, and reciprocity of persons and tests. Other topics include: social invitations; advice on articles for journals; lists of books for purchase; correlations between persons; and, tests results.

Among the letters too there are occasional off-prints (usually single pages) from academic journals, and transcripts of formulae and estimates.

Administrative / Biographical History

Walter Ledermann was born in Berlin, 18 March 1911. He left Germany in 1934 and came to St. Andrews in Scotland as a research student at the University. He obtained his St. Andrews Ph.D in 1936. In 1937 he became a Lecturer in Dundee and a private assistant to Thomson at the University of Edinburgh. Between 1938 and 1946 he was back at St. Andrews, and in 1940 he was awarded the degree of D.Sc. by the University of Edinburgh, the same year that he had become a British citizen. In 1944 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Throughout the late 1930s and into the 1940s and 1950s, professional correspondence between Ledermann and Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson was maintained.

The educational psychologist and mathematical physicist Godfrey Hilton Thomson was born on 27 March 1881. He was educated at Rutherford College, Newcastle, and he studied at the Universities of Durham and Strasburg. He was awarded the degrees of B.Sc. 1903, M.Sc. 1906, D.Sc. 1913, and Ph.D. (Strasburg) 1906. Thomson became a Lecturer in Education at Armstrong College (King's College of the University of Durham) in 1909 and was raised to Professor there in 1920. In 1923-1924 he was a Visiting Professor at Columbia University, New York.

Experiences in Germany (prior to the 1919 Treaty, Strasburg had been German territory), and in the USA, brought him into close contact with educational theory and practice, and he became an authority on intelligence testing. In 1925 became Bell Professor of the Theory, History and Practice of Education at the University of Edinburgh. He was also Director of Moray House College. While at Edinburgh, Walter Ledermann became Thomson's private assistant.

Thomson was knighted in 1949 and was also awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta. He retired in 1951. His publications include The essentials of mental measurement written with Dr. William Brown, Instinct, intelligence and character, an educational psychology, A modern philosophy of education, and The geometry of mental measurement. Thomson was also involved in the Northumberland mental tests, and the Moray House tests.

Ledermann had gone on to become a Lecturer at the University of Manchester in 1946, and he remained there until 1962 when he was appointed Reader at the University of Sussex. At Sussex he was one of the founding members of the School of Physical Sciences, and in 1965 he became Professor of Mathematics. Ledermann retired in 1978. He celebrated his 90th birthday in 2001.

Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson died in Edinburgh on 9 February 1955.

Access Information

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Acquisition Information

Correspondence with Sir Godfrey H. Thomson, Accession No. E2005.18. Undated and unsigned letter from Ledermann to Lady Thomson was given to Professor Ian Deary by Walter Ledermann, and subsequently transferred to Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections, 1 May 2006, Accession No. E2006.20.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using: (1) for Thomson, Who was who. 1951-1960. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1961; (2) also for Thomson, University of Edinburgh journal. Vol.17. 1953-1955. pp. 255-256; (3) The MacTutor history of mathematics archive.Full-text [online]. Walter Ledermann [Accessed 2 September 2005].

Other Finding Aids

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections.