Papers and correspondence of John Frank Adams, 1930-1989

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Original deposit: The papers provide extensive documentation of Adams's career in mathematics. There are Adams's lecture notes and other teaching material for courses at Manchester and Cambridge Universities, and material from conferences and seminars attended by Adams throughout the world, including drafts of Adams's contributions and notes of contributions by others. Although very few copies of Adams's own letters survive, correspondence from mathematical colleagues is a significant part of the papers. The correspondents include M.F. Atiyah, M.G. Barratt, P.J. Hilton, I.M. James and S. Mac Lane. Also of interest are the three Bedford School sixth form mathematics notebooks.

Supplementary deposit: the papers provide significant further documentation of Adams's research, lectures, including teaching material for courses at Cambridge, and publications. The correspondence is only a slight addition to the substantial original deposit and there is one biographical item: an intellectual 'family tree' compiled by Adams tracing pupils of J.H.C. Whitehead.

Administrative / Biographical History

Adams was born in Woolwich and educated at Bedford School, winning an Open Scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1949 where he studied mathematics. On graduation he began research at Cambridge, initially under A.S. Besicovitch, then under S. Wylie, receiving his Ph.D. in 1955. He was appointed to a Junior University Lectureship in 1955 and was a Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, 1955-1958, spending the year, 1957-1958, studying at the Universities of Chicago and Princeton as a Commonwealth Fellow. On his return to Cambridge Adams was appointed Fellow, College Lecturer and Director of Studies in Mathematics at Trinity Hall, posts held until 1962 when he took up a Readership at Manchester University. In 1964 he succeeded M.H.A. Newman as Fielden Professor of Pure Mathematics there. In 1970 Adams returned to Trinity College, Cambridge as a Fellow, when he succeeded W.V.D. Hodge as Lowndean Professor of Astronomy and Geometry, a position he held until his death. Adams's most important area of research was in homotopy theory. He developed the algebraic system known as the Adams Spectral Sequence and did pioneering work on cohomology operations in K-theory. In 1965 he introduced the Adams conjecture (now the Adams theorem) into the study of K-theory. He was elected FRS in 1964 (Sylvester Medal 1982).

Arrangement

By section as follows: Biographical, Research, Lectures, Publications, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

By appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogues of the papers and correspondence of John Frank Adams (1930-1989) by T.E. Powell and P. Harper. NCUACS catalogue no. 26/2/91, 119 pp and NCUACS supplementary catalogue no. 34/2/92, 40 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Custodial History

Original material received for cataloguing in 1990 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Mrs Grace Adams, widow, via the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, Cambridge. Deposited in Trinity College in 1991.

Supplementary material received for cataloguing in 1991 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Mrs Adams, via the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics. Deposited in Trinity College in 1992.

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