Thornton Carle Fry

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Thornton Carle Fry (7 January 1892, Findlay, Ohio – 1 January 1991) was an applied mathematician, known for his two widely-used textbooks, Probability and its engineering uses (1928) [1] [2] and Elementary differential equations (1929). [3] [4]



Thornton C. Fry received his bachelor's degree from Findlay College in 1912 and then pursued graduate study in Wisconsin in mathematics, physics, and astronomy. He received his M.A. in 1913 [5] and his Ph.D. in 1920 in applied mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with thesis under the supervision of Charles S. Slichter. [6] [7]

Fry was employed as an industrial mathematician by Western Electric Company from 1916 to 1924 and then by Bell Telephone Laboratories (Bell Labs), which was half-owned by Western Electric. He headed a corporate division for industrial applications of mathematics and statistics and was involved in research and development for the U.S. federal government in both world wars.

After retiring (due to reaching the mandatory retirement age) from Bell Labs in 1956, he was hired by William Norris as a Senior Consultant for the UNIVAC division of Sperry Rand. He would subsequently be appointed as Vice-President head of the UNIVAC Division over Norris in April 1957. [8] After retiring from Sperry-Rand in 1961 he worked as a consultant with Boeing Scientific Research Labs and also, during the 1960s, with Walter Orr Roberts, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. [9]

In 1924 Fry was an Invited Speaker of the International Congress of Mathematicians in Toronto. [10] In 1982 the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) gave him the MAA's distinguished service award. [11]

Selected publications


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  1. Struik, D. J. (1930). "Review of Probability and its Engineering Uses by T. C. Fry". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 36: 19–21. doi: 10.1090/S0002-9904-1930-04858-2 .
  2. Fry, Thornton (1928). Probability and its Engineering Uses. D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc.
  3. Longley, W. R. (1930). "Review of Elementary Differential Equations by Thornton C. Fry". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 36 (3): 173–174. doi: 10.1090/S0002-9904-1930-04918-6 .
  4. Fry, Thornton (1929). Elementary Differential Equations. D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc.
  5. Fry, Thornton Carle (1913). A contact transformation. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  6. Thornton Carle Fry at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  7. Fry, Thornton Carle (1921). The Application of Modern Theories of Integration to the Solution of Differential Equations. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  8. Norberg, Arthur L. (2005). Computers and commerce: a study of technology and management at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Company, Engineering Research Associates, and Remington Rand, 1946-1957. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. pp. 262, 265–266, 273. ISBN   978-0-262-14090-4 . Retrieved 23 October 2023.
  9. Firor, John; Trimble, Virginia (1997). "Obituary. Thornton Carl (sic) Fry, 1892–1991s". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 29 (4): 1470–1471. Bibcode:1997BAAS...29.1470F. This obituary and several other sources have the name "Thornton Carl Fry" instead of the correct "Thornton Carle Fry".
  10. Fry, T. C. "The use of the integraph in the practical solution of differential equations by Picard's method of successive approximations". In: Proc. Intern. Mathematical Congress held in Toronto, 1924. Vol. 2. pp. 407–428. (See integraph.)
  11. Price, G. Baley. "Award for distinguished Service to Dr. Thornton Carl (sic) Fry". American Mathematical Monthly. 89 (2): 81–83. doi:10.1080/00029890.1982.11995388.