CENTREFOLD Professors of Mathematics at Auckland University College Professors William Aldis and Hugh Segar George Francis Walker, B.A., Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, the Second Wrangler of 1879, may be considered to be the zeroth holder of the Chair. A few days after he arrived in Auckland, and before he could take up his duties, Professors Walker and Tucker (Classics and English) went out on the Waitemata Harbour in a small yacht, which capsized. Tucker managed to keep afloat until rescued but Walker was drowned. Thus in 1883 the lectures in Mathematics were given by A.P.W. Thomas, the Professor of Natural Science. THE MISSIONARY The vacant Chair of Mathematics was filled by the appointment of William Steadman Aldis, who had in fact been the first choice for the Foundation Chair. Walker, whom Aldis had coached for the mathematical Tripos, had been recommended by him when he found that, because of a mix-up in arrangements (presumably due to slow mail), his current duties prevented him from taking the Chair at the outset. When it had been announced that the Auckland University College would be appointing professors, the New Zealand Herald said that 'in a new country something more than mere ability' was wanted, and that the College 'must secure, if possible, men who are humble minded and have lofty views'. What was definitely not wanted was 'some conceited young professor who only intensifies the prevailing tendency to self-glorification' and, if necessary, the choice should not be restricted to England but only by the quality and .missionary spirit' of the applicants. The overall process of selecting the first four professors was entrusted to Dr. Benjamin Jowett, vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. As tutor, then Master, of Balliol College, Jowett made its name a by-word for academic excellence and high moral purpose. He placed the selection for the Mathematics Chair in the hands of Peter Tait, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh and Dr. John Jellet, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and they chose Aldis to be the mathematical missionary. Aldis certainly had the right qualifications. He was born in Southwark, London, on 10 February 1839, the second son of Rev. John Aldis, a noted Baptist minister, and the grandson of Dr. William Steadman, the first head of what is now Rawdon Baptist Theological College, affiliated to the University of Leeds. He was educated by his parents at Shirley, near Croydon, until the age of twelve, and then at the newly-founded City of London School. At sixteen his father destined him for business, until his headmaster protested. Instead, in 1858 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he made his way by means of scholarships, reaching the pinnacle of being Senior wrangler (leading the other competitors in the Mathematics Tripos by two thousand marks) and First Smith's Prizeman of 1861. Two of his brothers were later in their turn Sixth and Second Wranglers. Another member of the family invented the Aldis signalling lamp. Normally Aldis would have got a College Fellowship (the usual opening to a University career) as a matter of course but, being a Nonconformist, he was barred by Statute. Instead, he spent the next ten years as a private tutor to Tripos candidates at Cambridge, and as an external examiner for Queen's University, Belfast, both mundane but well paid jobs. In 1863 he married Mary Robinson, the daughter of a Baptist minister. In 1871 he became Professor of Mathematics at the newly-founded College of Physical Science at Newcastle (part of the University at Durham) and in a few years he was also made Principal. Having learnt Hebrew while recovering from a typhoid illness a year or two after going to Newcastle, he was sometimes employed by the University of Durham to examine divinity students in Hebrew. One of his students at Newcastle later described him as a man of medium height, spare rather than stout, with a pale face and a bushy reddish-brown beard, and added that he had 'an obliquity of vision, a soft voice, and a biting tongue'. A historian of the University of Durham wrote that 'he was undoubtedly a brilliant teacher, and it was a great loss to the College when he resigned in 1864'. On his arrival in Auckland, in good time for the 1884 session, Aldis began work in the former Admiralty House, in which Mathematics shared with Classics and English a lecture room formed by removing the folding doors between the two sitting rooms, whose French windows led to a verandah overlooking the harbour. The two bedrooms over the lecture room had been converted into professorial studies, and the rest of the house served as residence for the caretaker and his wife. In 1890 Aldis moved to a building in Beach Road vacated by the Survey and Crown Lands Department, and there he had his own lecture room. Most of the lectures were given in the evening or on Saturday morning since most of the students were part-time. Research was low on the list of priorities for the early professors at Auckland.
Aldis, who had earlier written standard works on Solid Geometry (1865) and Geometrical
Optics (1872) and two others on Double Refraction (1870) and Rigid Dynamics (1882),
went on to produce a textbook on Algebra in 1887. In 1888 he published a paper
"on the mechanical description of a straight line by means of link-work"
in the The historian J. A. Froude published a book in 1886 describing a visit to New Zealand the previous year, during which he met Aldis and his wife whom he described as 'of the elect of cultivated man and woman-kind'. Froude was invited to visit the Aldis's at their home under Mt. Eden. He wrote that 'though it was a strange place in which to find the most brilliant mathematician that Cambridge has produced for half a century, he and his wife contrived to find life pass pleasantly there. Nay, they looked back on Newcastle ... as in comparison a sort of Tartarus, an abode of lost souls. The professor went daily into town for. his duties at the college, and he had pupils, he told me, of real promise, quite as likely to distinguish themselves as any that he had taught at home'. Froude was of the opinion that 'had Aldis been a clergyman of the Established Church, he might have risen to an archbishopric. There was no distinction which he might not have claimed, or for which the Completeness of his Christian belief would not have qualified him. But in his own judgment, which was probably as excellent on this point as on others, he was better as he was. in his house there was no gossip, political or personal. Of politics he kept prudently clear,.as no business of his. But he talked, and talked admirably, on all subjects of enduring -interest, with the clearness of scientific knowledge, and the good sense which it is so pleasant to listen to'. In fact, being apolitical was not typical of Aldis. His daughter has related that Aldis, when he was weighing the question of emigration to New Zealand, enquired carefully in an interview with the Agent-General whether as professor in a Government College, he would be free to take part in public matters. "Free as air," replied Dillon Bell. But the emigrant himself made a vow of abstinence for two years, feeling that a newcomer might easily make mistakes. She also wrote that 'his Puritan upbringing made gambling in its most trivial forms in his sight as morally wrong as it is mathematically unsound. His sensitive soul shrank from even the mention of the coarser forms of evil. But duty came before feeling .... When they came to Auckland they found licenced prostitution in full swing. So, as the two years of vowed abstinence, or holiday, from public work were drawing to a close, husband and wife, out for a long ride together, discussed the situation. "There is no help for it. we must face it" concluded she. "Yes, even if it costs the professorship," he replied. Owing to his professorial duties, most of the hard work of the agitation fell to her share. A lead once given, others rallied to their support. The day came when a good Presbyterian minister said, "Mrs. Aldis, all the bad men in Auckland hate you."' Mr. R. B. Shalders, one of the founders of the Auckland Y.M.C.A., and a Baptist deacon, whose great interest was in the spiritual welfare of the back-blocks, 'found a willing curate in the new professor of mathematics ... Many a happy weekend was spent during vacations under (Shalders's] auspices in the home of some country settler, with a view to ministering on the Sunday in some more or less neighbouring Church or Hall. One prospective hostess was alarmed at the idea of entertaining a University Professor, but was reassured by a friend who had tried, and told her, "Oh! It's just like having a child in the house."' According to his daughter, 'as a teacher, Mr. Aldis had been above all concerned that his pupils should understand, and that they should think. He believed in hard work, and close attention; but not in long hours. six hours a day, six days a week, plus lectures had been his own allowance when studying for his degree: and he doubted whether at such a subject as Mathematics any man could with real advantage do more. The brain, he felt, was a delicate instrument, of which the edge could easily be blunted.' Aldis seems to have got on well with his students, at least with the ladies. His daughter wrote that 'His sense of hum our was a great help to him in the new situation. One of the lady students once remarked that it was so nice to have a professor who could say nasty little things to you; such for instance as that a set of papers would be much improved by being ironed; or the promise, "When miss has finished her lecture, I will go on with mine."' To the surprise of his students, in 1893 Aldis was summarily dismissed, on
the grounds that he neglected to give some of his advertised lectures. The story
of this affair, which has many of the elements of tragicomedy, occupies most of
a chapter of Sinclair's Sinclair concludes that the substance of the original accusation made against Aldis was very thin: he was doing about the number of hours advertised; there had been no complaints at all, and there was no criticism of his teaching; he had received no warning nor, according to him, any admonitions to improve his performance; indeed, he was apparently sacked because Council was not informed that he had not given two weekly lectures for the reason that no students had enrolled. The way in which Aldis was dismissed was also discreditable, and there were numerous protests, notably by Sir George Grey, Sir William Fox, and Sir Robert Stout. Grey claimed that Aldis was !one of the most learned mathematicians in Europe ... one who could lead [his students] to the highest pitch of mathematical knowledge and he 'had aided him in forming one of the most perfect libraries for mathematical teaching that could exist. They obtained almost everything necessary for the education of men in that branch of knowledge: and now Council intended dismissing the man who could direct this educational effort.' However, Aldis's intemperate statements, and a press campaign in Britain (launched by his friend E. A,.Abbott) which included an appeal for University men to boycott Aldis's Chair, aroused antagonism. Council voted 5:5 on a motion to rescind the dismissal, and O'Rourke gave his casting (that is, second) vote against. Further appeals to Members of Parliament and petitions to Parliament were unavailing. Aldis and his wife remained in Auckland for three more years and then returned
to England, where he preached occasionally and assisted with examining, but he
never held. another teaching position. He published some tables of Bessel functions
in the THE BUSINESSMAN Early in 1894 the Chair of Mathematics was offered to Alfred Robert Johnson, the Sixth Wrangler of 1882 and a former Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, but Johnson declined because of what he had heard from Abbott about the Aldis affair. However, he recommended that the Chair be offered to Hugh William Segar, the Second Wrangler of 1890 and one of the two Smith's Prizemen of 1892. The offer was made, at a salary of £500, which was £200 less than that which Aldis received (many people in Auckland considered that Aldis was overpaid as well as underworked), and Segar accepted. Segar was born in Liverpool in 1868 and received his secondary education at Liverpool College. At sixteen years of age he was first in the British Isles in each of the three subjects, pure mathematics, applied mathematics and science, in the Cambridge Senior Local Examinations (open to all students under nineteen years of age). He declined a sizarship to St. John's College, Cambridge, in favour of staying longer at school, but later proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge. From Cambridge he went to the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, as Lecturer in Mathematics, but a few months later he was appointed to the Auckland Chair, which he was to occupy until his retirement in 1934, a period of forty years. For almost the whole of his appointment, Segar taught single handed, and without benefit of sabbatical leave, the subjects of Pure and Applied Mathematics up to Honours standard. The list of university prizewinners shows that at first Segar was a successful teacher, even though some students found his monotone boring, but it is evident that in his later years he became tired. K. E. Bullen, who was a student (1923-27) and later an assistant (from 1927) to Segar, reported that prior to 1928 Segar gave four lectures a week in first-year Pure Mathematics, two in first-year Applied Mathematics and for the rest he lumped everybody together into a single tutorial class during which he would go around and ask his students if they had any difficulties, and as a rule refer them to a cupboard where he had solutions of the more difficult problems written out by him over earlier years. In the period 1890-3 Segar published sixteen papers, most of them short, on
properties of determinants and related items of algebra. His research ceased abruptly
when he came to Auckland, presumably because of his heavy teaching load and the
fact that mathematical journals were not available in the Dominion. In the period
1900-8 he published twelve papers in the He spent an increasing amount of time on committees, both university and public. He became Chairman of the Boards of Directors of three companies: Tonson, Garlick, Ltd. (furniture); J. Wiseman & Sons (manufacturers and wholesalers of leather and sports equipment); and New Zealand Home Builders. He served continuously on the Senate of the University of New Zealand from 1913 until his retirement in 1934. He was Chairman of the Academic Board from its inception in 1915 until 1934. He was a member of the Auckland University College Council from 1913 to 1929. Segar had the reputation of being a man of integrity who did not shirk difficult or unpleasant tasks, and he provided a cohesive force in university committees which were often subjected to serious tensions. He was recognized as one who loved university students and had great affection for his students, an affection which was indeed mutual. On numerous occasions he championed the students when they were undeservedly taken to task by the local press for public misbehaviour. Segar was active over a long period with both the Workers' Educational Association
and the Auckland Institute and Museum (on whose Council he served from 1900,until
his retirement, on account of ill health, in 1953, a record unequalled on any
public body in Auckland). He gave numerous public lectures on a variety of subjects,
his most popular ones being on astronomy. For many years he contributed articles
in the As a boy Segar played Rugby football in a team representing the secondary schools of Liverpool. Although he was not an active player in New Zealand he closely followed the games of the University Club for many years; he was President of the club for several years, and he served on the Management Committee of the Auckland Rugby Union. He was also a keen tennis player, and played regularly until over seventy years of age, both at home and as a member of the Parnell Lawn Tennis Club, which he served as President for many years. in later life he took up bowls with the Remuera Bowling Club and was President of the Club in 1938-9. He also found much recreation in music. Segar married Elise Scherff in 1894. They had two sons and two daughters. One daughter, E. C. Margaret Segar, was for many years a staff member of the Botany Department at the University of Auckland. His biographer, L. H. Briggs, wrote that Segar would be remembered for his genial personality, his kindliness in his own house, and his unruffled temperament and calm judgment on committees. Science and education in Auckland owed a great debt to his life of service over sixty years in university and public affairs. THE STORY-TELLER in 1934 Segar was succeeded by Henry George Forder, whose main competitor for the chair was the young Bullen. Forder was aged 45 when he arrived in Auckland. A Wrangler of 1910 Forder's previous employment had been entirely in secondary school teaching, and G. H..Hardy who was asked to comment on the applicants, wrote that "Forder is plainly, in his way, a rather remarkable man, since he combines so much experience of comparatively elementary teaching with a teal understanding of and enthusiasm for the logic of his subject .... I bought his book ... and read quite a lot of it, and was genuinely interested by it." One of Forder's referees was E. A. Milne, who wrote that Forder was extremely widely read in mathematical logic and philosophy, pure mathematics, relativity, quantum mechanics and astrophysics, and that on these subjects he had heard him speak with knowledge, and authority, and with marked originality. Thus Forder arrived in New Zealand with a high reputation as an authority
on what had been done in Mathematics, and in the years to come he was to continue
expounding on mathematical discoveries. His own contributions to original mathematics
were comparatively modest; his strength lay in the reworking and popularising
of the work of others. The book that Hardy referred to was Since several excellent biographies of Forder have been written in recent years, I shall briefly outline his career. He was born on 27 September 1889 at Shotesham All Saints, near Norwich, the son of a blacksmith who cherished books. Henry Forder won scholarships, first to Paston Grammar School (where, with another boy, he founded the school debating society) and then to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge where he studied the standard mathematical books of his time and read a dazzling variety of books on other subjects. On completion of his degree in 1910, he could not afford to stay on at Cambridge, and so he became a school master, the occupation he desired. He taught at schools in Oldham, Cardiff and London, and finally at Hull, where, in 1922, he married his wife Dorothy, and so began what was to be a happy marriage lasting forty-eight years. He eventually became dissatisfied with his life as a schoolmaster, and, when invited to apply for the Auckland chair, he did so. Apart from a sabbatical leave in England in 1947, he was to remain in Auckland for the rest of his life. The mathematical syllabus which Forder found when he arrived at Auckland shocked him. After one term he was invited to report to Council. He wrote that he would attempt to raise the standard at Auckland to the standard of the scholarship examinations taken in schools in England. He reported that it was at present possible for a student to get First Class Honours and be completely unaware of the existence of the whole of modern mathematics, and by modern mathematics he meant not the mathematics of this century but the last! Such was the inertia of the University of New Zealand system, coupled with the political need to cater for large numbers of part-time and exempt students, that it took him until 1936 to get the theory of complex variables into the course, and until 1938 to get calculus into the syllabus for Pure Mathematics I. Forder quickly got disillusioned with committees, and did his best to steer clear of them, with one exception - the Library Committee of the A.U.C., of which he became Chairman. He dedicated himself to building up the library. When he arrived it contained no mathematics journals at all except for three old volumes. He had told the selection committee for the Chair that if the situation with respect to journals was to continue then he would prefer to remain as an Assistant Master in an English School. As a result, Council provided a small grant for journals, and Forder himself subscribed to others. He was later to relate that the annual grant of £18 to the Mathematics Department was less than what he spent himself. of course Forder continued to read lots of books, particularly on history.
He made a point of telling Rutherford, the Professor of History, that he read
history when he was too tired to read mathematics, and he took a delight in correcting
colleagues who, in the course of conversation in the Senior Common Room, made
slips of historical fact. Indeed, Forder was renowned as a wit and conversationist.
In his entry in My undergraduate days coincided with Forder's last three years.in the Auckland
Chair. He taught a first year geometry course and third and fourth year courses
on geometry and real variable analysis. I went directly into second year classes,
but I was advised to attend Forder's Stage I geometry lectures. I found that to
fully enjoy this performance it was advisable to sit in the front row to the right
of the blackboard, in order to get a clear view of the small squiggles and to
hear the conversation. Forder was notorious for his habit of expounding solid
geometry by drawing pictures in the air. Weaker students found his lectures difficult
to follow, but they were a delight to those who could readily appreciate what
he was doing. I remember him as one of medium height and build, slightly stooped,
with a roundish face of florid complexion surmounted by short white hair, wearing
glasses with round lenses and thin metal frames which, from time to time, he used
to raise in order to peer at his lecture notes. These were usually written in
an extremely concise format in small notebooks from which the staples had been
removed. An exception was his Honours geometry course, for which he handed out
cyclostyled notes which were complete except for the absence of diagrams, which
each student had to put in for himself. For parts of the lecture he used to walk
up and down in front of his class. Usually he found something to chuckle about.
An example was the moral illustrated by the function exp(-1/t Forder reluctantly retired at the end of 1955, having been allowed to continue for one year beyond the normal retirement age of 65, but for another decade he continued to give a course of lectures to Master s students. After his wife died, he moved into a retirement home in Selwyn Village. Although he grew increasingly frail, his mind remained alert and he continued to read mathematics until his death, on 21 September 1981, a few days before his ninety-second birthday. I was privileged to have been one of his students. Since John Butcher John Kalman, Ceci1 Segedin and others have recently published tributes to Forder, I need write no more. THE SALESMAN Frederick Chong arrived in 1956 as the new Professor of Mathematics. Then
aged 40, Chong had been born in Australia to Chinese parents, and had gained an
M.Sc. (Sydney), and proceeded to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he was a
Wrangler in 1939. From 1940 to 1946 he was at the New England University College,
Armidale, at first as an Assistant Lecturer and then as a Lecturer in Mathematics
and Physics. He then moved to the University of Sydney where he was promoted to
Senior Lecturer in 1949. The following year he travelled to the U.S.A. on a Fulbright
Travel Grant. He spent a term as a Research Associate at the University of Chicago
before going to Iowa State University, where in 1952 he was awarded a Ph.D. He
then returned to the University of Sydney. At the time of his appointment he had
worked on orthogonal matrices and the application of dual integral equations to
problems in elasticity, and had published a paper on common eigenvectors of commuting
matrices. He had also edited the Australian version of E. A. Maxwell's I was a member of Chong's first master s classes, in algebra and analysis,at Auckland. He was an excellent salesman of mathematics. He gave good lectures, carefully organized and clearly articulated, and this made things easy for his students. Whereas Fodder had, like most of his Arts Faculty colleagues, worn a gown while lecturing, Chong sported a short white coat. Although confined by the University of New Zealand regulations until 1962, Chong made a number of innovations. In order to make the Unit system more flexible he introduced the units Advanced Mathematics (to provide a suitable third year course for students who had gained direct entry to Stage II in their first year) and Ancillary Mathematics (to provide a mixture of pure and applied mathematics papers at third year level for Physics and Chemistry students), and he initiated the teaching of abstract algebra at the second year Chong was active in the Auckland Mathematical Association, and provided a
steadying hand the time when "modern mathematics" was being introduced
into the secondary schools, and supported the publishing by the Association of
the At the time that Chong arrived at Auckland, New Zealand university salaries were well below Australian ones, and for the first few years his annual reports to Council contained complaints about the difficulty of recruiting staff. (Indeed, except for the usual routine information on examination pass rates, they contained little else.) Student numbers were rising rapidly, and class sizes were limited only by the capacity of the largest lecture rooms available. The University had of necessity to initiate an extensive building program, and Chong was appointed as Special Assistant (Buildings) to the Vice-Chancellor from 1 August 1964 for two years. About this time he had to go to Wellington to tell the university Grants Committee that the Mathematics Department would heed not one but two floors of the planned Section C of the Science Building. The following year he announced his resignation, in order to accept the Foundation Chair of Mathematics at Macquarie University. During his stay in Auckland, Chong was in demand as a public speaker, in institutions varying from schools to prisons. He was an active member of the Chinese Presbyterian Church in Auckland, and he took a particular interest in the establishment, by the Presbyterian Methodist Congregational Foundation Inc., of the Grafton Hall of Residence. Frederick Chong was to remain at Macquarie University for the remainder of his teaching career, but he made a point of calling in on his friends at the University of Auckland each time he passed through Auckland during a Sabbatical leave. References K. Sinclair, I have also made use of unpublished reminiscences of K. E. Bullen and H. G. Forder supplied by K. Sinclair, and I have had access to Auckland University Council Minutes.
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