J. H. C. Whitehead
J. H. C. Whitehead  

John Henry Constantine Whitehead


Born  Madras (Chennai), India 
11 November 1904
Died  8 May 1960 Princeton, New Jersey 
(aged 55)
Residence  United Kingdom, U.S. 
Nationality  British 
Fields  Mathematics 
Institutions  Oxford University 
Alma mater  Oxford University Princeton University 
Doctoral advisor  Oswald Veblen 
Doctoral students  Michael Barratt Ronald Brown Wilfred H. Cockroft Victor K. A. M. Gugenheim Graham Higman Peter Hilton Ioan James Brian Steer 
Known for  CW complex Simple homotopy Crossed module Whitehead group Whitehead manifold Whitehead product 
Notable awards  Senior Berwick Prize (1948) Fellow of the Royal Society^{[1]} 
John Henry Constantine Whitehead FRS^{[1]} (11 November 1904 – 8 May 1960), known as Henry, was a British mathematician and was one of the founders of homotopy theory. He was born in Chennai (then known as Madras), in India, and died in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1960.
Life
J. H. C. (Henry) Whitehead was the son of the Right Rev. Henry Whitehead, Bishop of Madras, who had studied mathematics at Oxford, and was the nephew of Alfred North Whitehead and Isobel Duncan. He was brought up in Oxford, went to Eton and read mathematics at Balliol College, Oxford, where he cofounded The Invariant Society, the student mathematics society.^{[2]} After a year working as a stockbroker, at Buckmaster & Moore, he started a Ph.D. in 1929 at Princeton University. His thesis, titled The representation of projective spaces, was written under the direction of Oswald Veblen in 1930. While in Princeton, he also worked with Solomon Lefschetz.
He became a fellow of Balliol in 1933. In 1934 he married the concert pianist Barbara Smyth, greatgreatgranddaughter of Elizabeth Fry and a cousin of Peter Pears; they had two sons. During the Second World War he worked on operations research for submarine warfare. Later, he joined the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, and by 1945 was one of some fifteen mathematicians working in the "Newmanry", a section headed by Max Newman and responsible for breaking a German teleprinter cipher using machine methods.^{[3]} Those methods included the Colossus machines, early digital electronic computers.^{[3]}
From 1947 to 1960 he was the Waynflete Professor of Pure Mathematics at Magdalen College, Oxford.
He became president of the London Mathematical Society (LMS) in 1953, a post he held until 1955.^{[4]} The LMS established two prizes in memory of Whitehead. The first is the annually awarded, to multiple recipients, Whitehead Prize; the second a biennially awarded Senior Whitehead Prize.^{[5]}
J.J. Rotman, in his book on algebraic topology, as a tribute to Whitehead's intellect, says, "There is a canard that every textbook of algebraic topology either ends with the definition of the Klein bottle or is a personal communication to J. H. C. Whitehead."^{[6]}
Whitehead died from an asymptomatic heart attack during a visit to Princeton University in May 1960.^{[7]}
In the late 1950s, Whitehead had approached Robert Maxwell, then chairman of Pergamon Press, to start a new journal, Topology, however Whitehead died before its first edition appeared in 1962.
Work
His definition of CW complexes gave a setting for homotopy theory that became standard. He introduced the idea of simple homotopy theory, which was later much developed in connection with algebraic Ktheory. The Whitehead product is an operation in homotopy theory. The Whitehead problem on abelian groups was solved (as an independence proof) by Saharon Shelah. His involvement with topology and the Poincaré conjecture led to the creation of the Whitehead manifold. The definition of crossed modules is due to him. Whitehead also made important contributions in differential topology, particularly on triangulations and their associated smooth structures.
Selected publications
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 J. H. C. Whitehead, On incidence matrices, nuclei and homotopy types, Ann. of Math. (2) 42 (1941), 1197–1239.
 J. H. C. Whitehead, Combinatorial homotopy. I., Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 55 (1949), 213–245
 J. H. C. Whitehead, Combinatorial homotopy. II., Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 55 (1949), 453–496
 J. H. C. Whitehead, A certain exact sequence, Ann. of Math. (2) 52 (1950), 51–110
 J. H. C. Whitehead, Simple homotopy types, Amer. J. Math. 72 (1950), 1–57.
 Saunders MacLane, J. H. C. Whitehead, On the 3type of a complex, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 36 (1950), 41–48.
 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value). (published posthumously)
See also
 Simple homotopy
 Spanier–Whitehead duality
 Whitehead problem
 Whitehead link
 Whitehead theorem
 Whitehead torsion
References
 ↑ ^{1.0} ^{1.1} Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
 ↑ The Early History of the Invariant Society by Robin Wilson, printed in The Invariant (2010), Ben Hoskin
 ↑ ^{3.0} ^{3.1} Paul Gannon, Colossus: Bletchley Park's Greatest Secret, 2006, Atlantic Books; ISBN 1843543303. p. 347
 ↑ "MacTutor History of Mathematics archive". Retrieved 20070708.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ "List of LMS prize winners". Retrieved July 27, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ http://www.springer.com/us/book/9780387966786
 ↑ James, I. M. (1962). Mathematical Works of J. C. H. Whitehead. Oxford: Pergamon. p. xviii. ISBN 9781483164731. Retrieved 8 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
External links
 J. H. C. Whitehead at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
 O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "J. H. C. Whitehead", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
 Pages with broken file links
 1904 births
 1960 deaths
 20thcentury British mathematicians
 Topologists
 People educated at Eton College
 Alumni of Balliol College, Oxford
 Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford
 Princeton University alumni, 1930–39
 People associated with Bletchley Park
 Fellows of the Royal Society
 Fellows of Balliol College, Oxford
 Waynflete Professors of Pure Mathematics