Local heroes – Joseph Proudman, 1888–1975

Joseph Proudman was a distinguished mathematician and oceanographer. He was born in Unsworth, Lancashire. From an early age he studied widely and intensively – and was awarded an entrance scholarship to the University of Liverpool in 1907. He graduated with first class honours, a prize for Geometry, and the Derby Scholarship. He then embarked on a second undergraduate career in pure and applied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Joseph ProudmanHe became a Wrangler with distinction and graduated from Cambridge in 1912. At the suggestion of his tutor he contacted Prof. H. Lamb at Manchester for a suitable research topic. This started him on his studies of the dynamics of tides, and he later worked with Prof. Lamb to prepare a report for the British Association on the state of research on ocean tides. He was appointed the first professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Liverpool in 1919 – the same year he founded the Liverpool Tidal Institute (he as Honorary Director, Arthur Thomas Doodson as Secretary). The Institute acquired a national and international reputation for both its fundamental research and tidal prediction services. Six years later, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

His theoretical studies “solved practically all the remaining tidal problems which are soluable within the framework of classical hydrodynamics and analytical mathematics” and underpinned the development of the Observatory and Tidal Institute as perhaps the world’s leading tidal institute - which had significance in many fields of study. During the war years, he was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Liverpool University. Prof. Proudman retired as Director in 1946 but continued to sit on several committees, perhaps most significantly he was President of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) from 1951–1954.