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Mathematical Physics

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Bertha Swirles, Lady Jeffreys


Additional Information

Some Contributions:

A non-relativistic quantum mechanical model for the internal conversion of gamma rays in nuclear transitions.

Applications of what is now known as the Hartree-Fock approximation for many electron atoms.

Papers on a variety of topics in theoretical physics; a selection is listed below.

The influential and widely used text Methods of Mathematical Physics coauthored with husband Harold.

Encouragement, inspiration, and training for many men and women studying mathematics and physics.

Some Publications:

"The Internal Conversion of Gamma Rays" Proc. Roy. Soc. 116: 491 (1927) and "The Internal Conversion of Gamma Rays - Part II" Proc. Roy. Soc. 121: 447 (1928)

"The Absorption Coefficient of a Degenerate Gas" Mon. Not. R. Astr. Soc. 91: 857 (1931)

"The Coefficients of Absorption and Opacity of a Partially Degenerate Gas" Proc. Roy. Soc. A 141: 554 (1933)

"The Relativistic Self-Consistent Field" Proc. Roy. Soc. A 152: 625 (1935)

"The Relativistic Interaction of Two Electrons in the Self-Consistent Field Method" Proc. Roy. Soc. A 157: 680 (1936)

"The Effect of Configuration Interaction on the Low Terms of the Spectra of Oxygen" Proc. Camb.Phil. Soc. 33: 240 (1937) with D. R. Hartree; and "Self-Consistent Field, Including Exchange and Superposition of Configurations, with some Results for Oxygen" Phil. Trans Roy. Soc. A 238: 229 (1939) with D. R. Hartree and W. Hartree.

The above papers were published under her maiden name Bertha Swirles.

"Note on an Anomaly in the Spectrum of O++" Proc. Camb. Philos. Soc. 38: 290 (1942)

"Note on the Transparency of a Potential Barrier." ibid., 38: 401 (1942)

"The Classification of Multipole Radiation." ibid., 48: 470 (1952)

"The Use of the Airy Functions in a Potential Barrier Problem." ibid., 52: 273 (1956).

"Transformation of Tesseral Harmonics under Rotation." Geophys. J. R. Astr. Soc. 10: 141 (1965)

"Tidal Friction in Historical Time and in the Remote Past." ibid., 73: 765 (1983).


Methods of Mathematical Physics with Harold Jeffreys; Cambridge University Press 1946, 1950, 1956 (reprinted 1962, 1966) paperback 1972.

Translation from the Russian of Nutation and Forced Motion of the Earth's Pole by Ye. P. Fedorov; Pergamon Press, 1963.

Collected Papers of Sir Harold Jeffreys on Geophysics and Other Science Vols. 3-6, Sir Harold Jeffreys and Bertha Swirles (Lady Jeffreys), ed.; Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, New York and London, 1971-77.


First Class Honours, Mathematical Tripos Parts I (1922) and II (1924), Cambridge University.

President of Mathematical Association 1969-70.

Chairman of Council of Hughes Hall 1958-1962.

President, Cambridge Association of University Women 1975-1979.

Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Saskatchewan 1995.

Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University, The Open University (UK) 1996.


1927-28 Hertha Aryton Research Fellow, Girton College, Cambridge
1928-31 Assistant Lecturer, University of Manchester
1931-32 Assistant Lecturer, University of Bristol
1932-33 Assistant Lecturer, Imperial College, London
1933-38 Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, University of Manchester
1938-69 Official Fellow and Lecturer in Mathematics, Girton College, Cambridge
1949-69 Director of Studies in Mathematics and Mechanical Sciences, Girton College, Cambridge
1966-69 Vice-Mistress, Girton College, Cambridge
1970- Life Fellow, Girton College, Cambridge


Northampton School for Girls 1915-21
B.A. Girton College, Cambridge University 1924
Studied at Göttingen University 1927-28
Ph.D. Cambridge University 1929

Additional Information/Comments

Her father, who died in 1905, was a leather salesman, and her mother a primary school teacher.

From a letter dated April 9, 1997:

Married (Sir) Harold Jeffreys Sept. 6, 1940.

Director of Studies in Music, Girton College, Cambridge 1939-47

Recommended reading


Field Editors: Ruth Williams/ N. Byers


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