Bertha Swirles

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Bertha Swirles
Bertha Swirles Lady Jeffreys.jpg
Bertha Swirles in 1962
Born22 May 1903
Died18 December 1999 (1999-12-19) (aged 96)
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorMax Born
Ralph Howard Fowler

Bertha Swirles, Lady Jeffreys (22 May 1903 – 18 December 1999) was a British physicist who carried out research on quantum theory, particularly in its early days. She was associated with Girton College, University of Cambridge, as student and Fellow, for over 70 years.[1]


Bertha Swirles was born in Northampton in 1903, attended Northampton School for Girls and then went up to Girton College, in 1921, to read Mathematics, graduating with first class Honours. She became a research student of Ralph Fowler, one of a distinguished company of his students that included Paul Dirac and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. She was awarded her PhD in 1929, by which time she was an Assistant Lecturer in Manchester. She followed with similar posts in Bristol and then at Imperial College (then the Royal College of Science), London in the 1930s.[2][3] She married Harold Jeffreys in 1940, and became Lady Jeffreys upon his knighthood in 1953.


She was president of the Mathematical Association for 1969.[4]

In 2016 the Council of the University of Cambridge approved the use of Swirles's name to mark Swirles Court, which consists of 350 graduate student rooms, leased by Girton College, within the North West Cambridge Development.[5]



  • Sir Harold Jeffreys and Bertha Swirles (Lady Jeffreys), Methods of Mathematical Physics, third revised edition (Cambridge University Press, 1956 — reprinted 1999). This book, first published in 1946, is commonly referred to as Jeffreys & Jeffreys. ISBN 0-521-66402-0, ISBN 978-0-521-66402-8.

Some biographical sketches by Bertha Swirles[edit]

  • Bertha Swirles, John Arthur Gaunt (1904-1944), Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 73–79 (1990). [1]
  • Bertha Swirles, Reminiscences and Discoveries: Harold Jeffreys from 1891 to 1940, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 301–308 (1992). [2]


  1. ^ Ruth M. Williams, Bertha Swirles Jeffreys (1903-1999), pp. 178–190, in Out of the Shadows: Contributions of Twentieth-Century Women to Physics, edited by Nina Byers and Gary Williams, 498 p. (Cambridge University Press, 2006). ISBN 0-521-82197-5
  2. ^ Field, John (12 December 2008). "David Tabor. 23 October 1913 - 26 November 2005". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 54: 425–459. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2007.0031. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  3. ^ Williams, R. M. (22 December 1999). "Obituary: Bertha Jeffreys". The Independent. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Presidents of the Association". Mathematical Association. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  5. ^ Administrator (2015-01-29). "Street Naming". Retrieved 2017-03-08.


  • R. M. Williams, Obituary: Bertha Jeffreys, The Independent (London), Wednesday, 22 December 1999. [3][4]
  • Mary Walmsley, Lady Jeffreys 1903-1999, The Mathematical Gazette, Vol. 84, No. 500, pp. 321–323 (2000). [5]
  • J. A. Hudson, Lady Bertha Swirles, 1903-1999, Astronomy & Geophysics, Vol. 41, No. 3. 36-37 (2000). [6]

External links[edit]