William Michael Herbert Greaves

Born: 10 September 1897 in Barbados, West Indies
Died: 24 December 1955 in Blackford, Edinburgh, Scotland

William Greaves' family came from the west of England but were living in Barbados where his father, Eustace C Greaves, was a doctor. William, who was his parents' only son, attended Lodge School, Barbados, from 1905 to 1915, and then spent 1915-16 at Codrington College, Barbados. Having won a scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge, he became an undergraduate there studying mathematics and astronomy. He a wrangler of the mathematical tripos of 1919 also being Tyson Medallist in that year. He continued to undertake research at Cambridge being Isaac Newton Student in 1921-3, and was elected a Fellow of St John's College in 1922.

Greaves was appointed Chief Assistant at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in 1924. He held this position until 1938 when he was appointed to the chair of astronomy at the University of Edinburgh and Astronomer Royal for Scotland. He was Professor of Astronomy at Edinburgh from 1938 until his death in 1955. While at Greenwich, Greaves had married Caroline Grace Kitto in 1926; their only son George Greaves became a mathematician.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1921 and served as its President from 1947 to 1949. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 6 March 1939 having been proposed by James P Kendall, Max Born, Edmund G Dymond, Ruric W Wrigley, Edwin A Baker, and Sir E T Whittaker. He was Secretary to Ordinary Meetings of the Society 1940-5, and Vice-President 1946-9. Greaves was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1943.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

July 2007
MacTutor History of Mathematics