Archive of the University of Liverpool: Papers of Dr. Rosalind Cecilia Hildegard Tanner; including papers of her parents W H Young and Grace C Young

Scope and Content

Papers of Dr R C H Tanner. Comprising of papers of her parents William Henry Young and Grace Chisholm Young, and of her brothers and sisters; papers from her student days and later employment in the Mathematics Department of Imperial College, London, including her involvement in establishing a mathematical research seminar at Imperial College; research notes, correspondence and other material relating to her mathematical research, including her work on the Elizabethan mathematician Thomas Harriot, and the establishment of the Thomas Harriot Seminars at Oxford University and Durham University.

Administrative / Biographical History

Rosalind Cecilia Hildegard Tanner (nee Young) was born on 5 February 1900. The daughter of the mathematicians Grace Chisholm Young (1868-1944) and William Henry Young (1863-1942), Cecily was one of six children; Francis (b.4 June 1897); Janet Dorothea Ernestine (b.14 December 1901); Helen Marian Kinnear (b.20 September 1903); Laurence Chisholm (b.14 July 1904); and Patrick Chisholm (b.18 March 1908). She spent her childhood on the continent, being schooled in Gottingen, Geneva and Lausanne, and in 1917 she went on to study at the University of Lausanne, obtaining her Licenciee es Sciences Math in 1925.

In the years 1919-1921 Cecily aided her father's work at University College Wales Aberystwyth, and between 1921-24 she helped Edward Collingwood (another academic at Aberystwyth) to translate Georges Valiron's course on Integral Functions. Following this, Cecily spent the years 1925-1932 at Girton College Cambridge, gaining her Ph.D. there in 1928 under the supervision of Professor Hobson. She then moved in 1933 to a teaching post at Imperial College London, where she was to remain until her retirement in 1967.

Cecily's research publications in mathematics ceased in 1936 although for a time she did work with Sydney Chapman on an exercise and text book on aspects of mathematical physics, it was unfortunately never completed. In 1953 Cecily married Bernard Tanner, the chief maintenance engineer at Imperial College. Sadly, Bernard died nine months later.

One of Cecily's main mathematical interests was in the importance of the research seminar, and in 1961 she founded such a seminar with Dr. G. J. Whitrow at Imperial College. Her interest in the research seminar, accompanied by an enthusiasm for the history of mathematics, soon led Cecily to become interested in the Elizabethan mathematician Thomas Harriot and to finance the setting up of a Thomas Harriot Seminar in 1967 at Oxford (his home town). The seminar is now held there annually. In 1979 Cecily financed another Harriot Seminar at Durham University, which now meets alternatively between there and Cambridge.

Cecily's interest in mathematics continued throughout her life and her papers represent this along with her many other varied pastimes. She died on 24 November 1992.


The material has been divided into three main sections as follows: Dr. Tanner's personal papers; Dr. Tanner's career and mathematical research; and Dr. Tanner's papers relating to the Elizabethan mathematician Thomas Harriot, and the establishment of the Harriot Seminars.

Summary of arrangement:

  • D599/1 Personal Papers of Dr. R. C. H. Tanner
  • D599/2 Papers relating to Dr. R. C. H. Tanner's Career and Mathematical Research
  • D599/3 Papers relating to Dr. R. C. H. Tanner's research on Thomas Harriot and her papers relating to the Harriot Seminars.

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers.

Acquisition Information

Received from Dr Patrick Young, 8 February 1993 .

Other Finding Aids

A hard-copy of the finding aid is available in the Special Collections and Archives' reading room.

Archivist's Note

Listed by Susannah Waters, June 2003 .

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request.

Related Material

D140 Papers of W. H. Young and Grace Chisholm Young.


  • For further details of Dr. Tanner's career and a list of her publications see Dr. Grattan-Guiness' obituary in the British Society for the History of Mathematics, Newsletter 23, Spring 1993, pp.10-15.
  • For biographical information on most of the mathematicians mentioned in this finding aid refer to The MacTutor History of Mathematics .
  • Other research material related to Thomas Harriot can be found in John Shirley's Papers at the University of Delaware.