Nora Isobel Calderwood


Born: 14 March 1896 in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland
Died: April 1985 in Selly Oak, Birmingham, Warwickshire,England


Nora Calderwood was born in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, where her father Daniel Scott Calderwood was headmaster of Blairgowrie Public School. The family moved to Edinburgh when Daniel Calderwood was appointed as headmaster of the Church of Scotland Normal School in Edinburgh, and all Nora's education was in Edinburgh. The family lived at 8 Argyle Place. She attended James Gillespie's School for six years from the age of five, entering the school in 1901. On 13 July 1907 Calderwood was awarded a bursary by the Edinburgh Burgh Committee on Secondary Education. She then began her studies at Edinburgh Ladies' College, which she attended from 1907 to 1914. She was in the same class as Annie Numbers.

Calderwood was very musical and in 1910, at age 14, she passed Higher Piano. In March 1913 she passed Lower Drawing and Higher English in the Scottish Leaving Certificate examinations, passing Mathematics, French, Latin, and Science at Higher level in the following March. In July 1913 Edinburgh Ladies College presented a gold medal to Calderwood as the dux of the music classes. Then in July 1914 she was awarded the Prize presented to the best Science scholar (which she resigned), the Prize presented to the best Arithmetician (not also the winner of the Stewart's College Club prize), which she also resigned, and the Corstorphine Prize presented to the best mathematician.

Having passed the Preliminary Examination in October 1914, Calderwood matriculated at the University of Edinburgh. She took the following courses: 1914-15 - 1st Mathematics, and Latin; 1915-16 - 2nd Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Chemistry; 1916-17 - Intermediate Honours Mathematics; 1917-18 - Intermediate Honours Natural Philosophy, and Advanced Honours Mathematics; 1918-19 - Advanced Honours Mathematics. She graduated with a B.Sc. (Pure) in 1919, then after studying Political Economy in 1919-20 she was awarded an M.A. on 26 March 1920.

After graduating, Calderwood went to Birmingham University where she became a Lecturer in Mathematics in the following year. She studied for her Ph.D. under the supervision of Alexander Aitken and was awarded a doctorate for her thesis Researches in the Theory of Matrices from the University of Edinburgh in 1931. She continued to teach at Birmingham until 1963 when she retired. During her last years in post she was teaching mathematics to chemical engineers.

Calderwood joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in January 1919 while she was still an undergraduate at Edinburgh University. In 1922 she also became a member of the London Mathematical Society.

Calderwood never married. She was an accomplished pianist, to the point of giving concerts in the Barber Institute in Birmingham.

At Birmingham University there is a Calderwood Prize, named after Nora Calderwood, for the best student in algebra.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

November 2007
MacTutor History of Mathematics
[http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Calderwood.html]