Rado, Richard (mathematician)

Reference: MS 4622Date: 1921-1991Extent: 59 boxes

Richard Rado was born in Berlin in 1906. He was educated at the Universities of Berlin and Göttingen, earning his D.Phil. degree at Berlin in 1933 for his thesis entitled ‘Studien zur Kombinatorik’, working under Issai Schur. He married Luise Zadek in March 1933, and the couple soon moved to England  as a consequence of Hitler’s accession to power in Germany and the Rados being Jewish.

Rado obtained a scholarship of ÂŁ300 a year through the recommendation of F.A. Lindemann (later Lord Cherwell) to enable him to study at Cambridge University. He entered Fitzwilliam House (later College) in 1933 and studied for a Ph.D. under G.H. Hardy; he was awarded his degree in 1935 for his thesis on ‘Linear Transformations of Sequences’. He stayed on at Cambridge with a temporary Lecturership until 1936. During the period 1933-1936, Rado made contact with a number of influential resident mathematicians, who included  J.E. Littlewood, P. Hall and A.S. Besicovitch, and with fellow refugees such as B.H. Neumann and Hans Heilbronn. It was in 1934 that he met for the first time the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdös with whom he was to have many productive collaborations over five decades.

Rado was subsequently Assistant Lecturer and Lecturer in Mathematics, Sheffield University, 1936-1947; Reader in Mathematics, King’s College London, 1947-1954; and Professor of Pure Mathematics, Reading University, 1954-1971. He spent the academic year immediately after retirement, 1971-1972, as Visiting Professor in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. Rado’s mathematical research was particularly distinguished for his pioneering work in many aspects of combinatorics including abstract independent structures, transversal theory and extensions of Ramsey’s theorem (the partition calculus). He was awarded the Senior Berwick Prize of the London Mathematical Society in 1972 and was elected FRS in 1978. Rado passed away on 23 December 1989.

This large collection includes important biographical material and full records of Rado’s mathematical research and teaching. There are correspondence, notebooks, material relating to teaching and publications, and papers relating to Rado’s other work.

The collection includes extensive correspondence from Rado’s student days in Germany (1925-1927) and from his first years as a Jewish refugee in England, principally 1933-1936 when he was based at Cambridge University. Further correspondence of Rado’s principal mathematical correspondents includes G.A. Dirac 1951-1985, Paul Erdös, 1934-1987, E.C. Milner, 1957-1985 and L. Mirsky, 1948-1983.

The notebooks include those used by Rado as a student for lecture notes (1927-1933) and the mathematical notebooks and diaries that he kept for the rest of his career (1928-1983). The student notebooks include notes on the lecture courses of mathematicians E. Schmidt and I. Schur, the physicists M. Born, M. Planck and E. Schrödinger, and the psychologist W. Köhler.

Material relating to his time at Reading University includes some records relating to the university Mathematics Department and the central university administration. Records of publications include Rado’s preparation of his mathematical papers and collaborative papers, including those with Paul Erdös, and are particularly well documented in drafts and correspondence. Evidence of lecture work comprises both university teaching and invitation and public lectures. The university teaching documentation includes little Cambridge material but full records for the courses taught by Rado at Sheffield University, King’s College London and Reading University.

Papers document a number of Rado’s major professional commitments including the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the London Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association. Also of interest is material relating to St Bartholomew’s Grammar School, Newbury; Rado served as Reading University representative on the school’s governing body. There are records of his regular attendance at British Mathematical Colloquia (1950-1979), combinatorics conferences in Europe and North America (1968-1983), and his Visiting Professorship at the University of Waterloo, Ontario (1971-1972). References and recommendations include records of Rado’s external examining and refereeing for journals.

More Information

  • A full description is available on our online database.
  • A handlist for the whole collection will be made available soon.
  • A printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Richard Rado (1906-1989), NCUACS catalogue no. 50/6/94, 120 pp. is available in the reading room.
  • For a fuller account of Rado’s mathematical work, see the memoir by C.A. Rogers (Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 37, Nov.1991, pp. 413-426).