Alexander Aitken

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Alexander Craig Aitken (1 April 1895 – 3 November 1967) was one of New Zealand's greatest mathematicians. He studied for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, where his dissertation, "Smoothing of Data", was considered so impressive that he was awarded a DSc in 1926, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh beforehand in 1925. Aitken took a position at Edinburgh in 1925. He was elected to the Royal Society of London in 1936 for his work in statistics, algebra and numerical analysis. He won the Thomas Baker Calculus Scholarship in his last year at school.

Aitken was one of the best mental calculators known, and had a prodigious memory., the 96 recurring digits of 1/97, and memorized the Aeneid in high school (Otago Boys High School, Dunedin, New Zealand). Unfortunately, his inability to forget the horrors he witnessed in World War I led to recurrent depression throughout his life.

He was an accomplished writer, being elected to the Royal Society of Literature in 1964 in response to the publication of his war memoirs. He was also an excellent musician, being described by Eric Fenby as the most accomplished amateur musician he had ever known, and was a champion athlete in his younger days.

Through his collaboration with Herbert W. Turnbull on a book on canonical matrices...
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