Trail-blazing Devon statistician recognised by international mathematical society
A trail-blazing female statistician who attended Colyton Grammar School in Devon in the 1920s, has been recognised by the prestigious Notices of the American Mathematical Society.
Florence Nightingale David attended Colyton Grammar School and is the school’s longest-serving Head Girl, holding that position from 1924 to 1928 at a time when the school had just started to accept girls. A trail-blazer from a young age, she excelled in mathematics with many awards for her academic success. She also travelled to school from her home in Beer on a motorcycle.
After her strong performance in mathematics at Colyton Grammar School, Florence went on to study Statistics and became a Research Assistant at University College London (UCL). She received her doctorate in 1938, forging an academic career in a very male-dominated environment.
Interestingly, during World War II she served as an experimental officer. She studied bombing patterns in order to develop a method for randomly placing landmines to avoid the appearance of any pattern in their placement by the enemy. The importance of her work took her to view the first big digital computer in the USA built to predict trajectories of weapons (travelling to the USA in an American bomber).
Later in her life, she started a Biostatistics Department at the University of California (1967), and was later appointed Professor, Emeritus and research associate at the University of California, Berkley.
Mrs Hudson, a Maths teacher said ‘ It is wonderful to remember Florence’s work and achievements, particularly at a time when women were only granted the vote in 1928 and it was very unusual for a woman to develop such an impressive academic career. As a young person you make choices depending on role models and it is always more aspiring to see a woman succeed in areas you are interested yourself. Research shows that female students are more likely to choose a STEM based subject when they are assigned a female teacher/professor. Florence David’s story continues to inspires us at Colyton Grammar School”
Florence Nightingale David’s achievements are celebrated this month in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society (rnoti-p321.pdf (ams.org))