Women in radar

Dr Mary Taylor

Dr Mary Taylor 1898 – 1984 was a mathematician and theoretical physicist whose research informed the development of radar.

Born in Sheffield in 1898, she won a scholarship to Girton College Cambridge where she was awarded a degree in mathematics and natural sciences and went on to teach mathematics.

It was while teaching mathematics at Girton that she became interested in the theory of radio waves and studied them under the direction of Edward Appleton*.

Mary Taylor completed her doctorate (in German) in Göttingen in Germany where she also received a research fellowship.

In 1929, she returned to England to work as a scientific officer at the Radio Research Station in Berkshire. Here she met Watson Watt and Ernest Clive Slow, who she would go on to marry.

‘Dr Mary Taylor, a brilliant mathematician. She it was who had done most of the calculations for Watson Watt and Wilkins when he was presenting his evidence about ‘Death Rays’ and the possibility of aircraft detection. When she married Slow, under Civil Service Rules, she had to resign her post, losing the Scientific Civil Service one of its most outstanding mathematicians.’

National Radar Archive, Sheffield University

*Edward Appleton won the Nobel Prize in 1947 for his research into the ionosphere, part of the earth’s upper atmosphere.

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Dr Mary Taylor