Forder, Henry George

(1889-1981), mathematician

by B. H. Neumann

© Oxford University Press 2004 All rights reserved

Forder, Henry George (1889-1981), mathematician, was born on 27 September 1889 at Shotesham All Saints, Norfolk, the eldest of the four sons and two daughters of Henry Forder and his wife, Mary Ann, née Chilvers. Both his parents had been born in the same village, where his paternal grandfather was the blacksmith. Henry Forder senior left school at eleven and was trained as a craftsman, as joiner, blacksmith, farrier, and wheelwright; by 1900 he was working at Worstead, where he had bought the blacksmith shop, and neighbouring villages. At Worstead village school the schoolmaster noticed the young Forder's gifts, and gave him special tuition; when, in 1902, county scholarships were introduced, Forder was among the first to benefit, attending Paston School, a grammar school founded in 1604, in North Walsham. There he became a leading figure, according to his youngest brother, the Ven. Archdeacon Charles R. Forder, who wrote the history of Paston School. In 1907 Forder founded, with another boy, the school debating society. In the same year he went up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, as a sizar, with a Norfolk county council scholarship of £65 per annum, another £20 per annum from the governors of Paston School, and, after he had passed the Cambridge 'Little-go', a further £27 per annum from the college. In 1908 he was awarded a college scholarship after gaining a first class in part one of the mathematical tripos; in 1910 he was one of the twenty-three wranglers in the tripos part two.

Forder then embarked on a career as mathematics master, at Hulme grammar school in Oldham, Lancashire, until 1913, then at Cardiff high school, St Olave's School in London, and finally at Hymer's College in Hull, Yorkshire. He was, by all accounts, a successful and highly regarded teacher. His brother Charles wrote: 'When I was vicar in Hull, 1947-57, I met many of his former pupils from Hymer's College, and all remembered him with affection' (private information). In 1921, during his time in Hull, he married his cousin Dorothy Whincup (d. 1970) of Bingham, Nottinghamshire; they had no children.

In 1933 Forder was invited to apply for the professorship of mathematics at the University College of Auckland (later the University of Auckland), one of the six constituent colleges of the University of New Zealand; he took up the appointment in 1934, and remained in Auckland for the rest of his life. His main works were several books on geometry: The Foundations of Euclidean Geometry (1927), A School Geometry (1930), Higher Course Geometry (1931), The Calculus of Extension (1941), Geometry (1950), and Co-ordinates in Geometry (1953). Most of these were reprinted, several went to a second edition, and some were translated into Romanian and Turkish. Most of his original research was published in thirty-six fairly short notes in the Mathematical Gazette, though he also published in a number of other journals. Forder was an inspiring teacher for gifted students. In Auckland he was greatly appreciated as a man of learning, as well as a brilliant conversationalist and wit. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1947 and awarded its Hector medal in 1946. The University of Auckland conferred on him the honorary degree of DSc in 1959, and a Festschrift for his eightieth birthday. A Spectrum of Mathematics (published by the Auckland University Press) and special issues of New Zealand mathematical journals marked his eightieth and his ninetieth birthdays. When the New Zealand Mathematical Society, founded in 1974, held its first annual general meeting, Forder was elected an honorary member. He died at his home, Lichfield, Selwyn Village, Port Chevalier, Auckland, on 21 September 1981.

Forder donated his extensive mathematical library to the University of Auckland, and a substantial sum of money to the London Mathematical Society, of which he was a member for sixty years; this now supports an H. G. Forder lectureship that biennially sends a prominent British mathematician on a lecture tour of New Zealand.


J. C. Butcher, Bulletin of the London Mathematical Society, 17 (1985), 162-7
WWW, 1981-90
private information (2004)
Newsletter of the New Zealand Mathematical Society [various issues]
C. Forder, A history of the Paston School, 2nd edn (1975)
personal knowledge (2004)

University of Auckland, MSS

P. Brown, drawing, repro. in Newsletter of the New Zealand Mathematical Society, 19 (1980), centrefold
photograph, repro. in Butcher, Bulletin of the London Mathematical Society, facing p. 162

Wealth at death  
considerable bequest to London Mathematical Society

Oxford University Press 2004 All rights reserved


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