[Paleopsych] Wiki: Lewis Fry Richardson
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Lewis Fry Richardson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Lewis Fry Richardson (October 11, 1881 - September 30, 1953) was a
mathematician, physicist and psychologist. One of seven children, he
was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, into a well-off, merchant
Quaker family, and was the son of Catherine Fry and David Richardson.
* 1 Education and early working life
* 2 Pacifism
* 3 Weather forecasting
* 4 Mathematical analysis of war
* 5 Research on the length of coastlines and borders
* 6 Lewis Fry Richardson Medal
* 7 References
Education and early working life
He entered Bootham School in York in 1894 and fell under the dual
influences of pacifist Quaker beliefs and, under master J. Edmund
Clark, science, in particular, meteorology. In 1898 he attended Durham
College of Science, to study mathematics, physics, chemistry, zoology
and botany, before graduating from King's College, Cambridge with a
first-class degree in the Natural Science Tripos in 1903.
Richardson's working life reflected his eclectic interests:
* National Physical Laboratory (1903-1904, 1907-1909)
* University College Aberystwyth (1905-1906)
* National Peat Industries (1906-1907) - as a chemist
* Sunbeam Lamp Company (1909-1912) - as manager of the physical and
* Manchester College of Technology (1912-1913)
* Meteorological Office (1913-1916) - as superintendent of
* Friends Ambulance Unit in France between 1916 and 1919
* Works at the Meteorological Office at Benson, Oxfordshire between
1919 and 1920.
* In 1920 is made Head of the Physics Department at Westminster
* Between 1929 and 1940 is principal of the Paisley Technical
College, now the University of Paisley.
Richardson's Quaker beliefs entailed an ardent pacifism that exempted
him from military service during World War I as a conscientious
objector though this subsequently disqualified him from holding any
academic post. Richardson worked from 1916 to 1919 for the Friends'
Ambulance Service attached to the 16th French Infantry Division. After
the war, he rejoined the Meteorological Office but was compelled to
resign on grounds of conscience when it was amalgamated into the Air
Ministry in 1920. He subsequently pursued a career on the fringes of
the academic world before retiring in 1940 to research his own ideas.
Richardson's interest in meteorology led him to propose a scheme for
weather forecasting by solution of differential equations, the method
used today, though, when he published Weather Prediction by Numerical
Process in 1922, suitable fast computing was unavailable. He, somewhat
eccentrically, envisaged bands of messengers on motor-cycles cruising
the Royal Albert Hall to communicate arithmetical results between
banks of clerks in order to obtain the necessary numerical solutions.
He was also interested in atmospheric turbulence and performed many
terrestrial experiments. The Richardson number, a dimensionless
parameter in the theory of turbulence is named after him. He famously
summarised the field in the parody:
Big whorls have little whorls that feed on their velocity,
and little whorls have smaller whorls and so on to viscosity.
Mathematical analysis of war
Richardson also attempted to apply his mathematical skills in the
service of his pacifist principles, in particular in understanding the
roots of international conflict. As he had done with weather, he
analyzed war using differential equations. Considering the armament of
two nations, Richardson posited an idealized system of equations
whereby the rate of a nation's armament build-up is directly
proportional to the amount of arms its rival has and also to the
grievances felt toward the rival, and negatively proportional to the
amount of arms it already has itself. Solution of this system of
equations allows insightful conclusions to be drawn regarding the
nature, and the stability or instability, of various hypothetical
conditions which might obtain between nations.
He also originated the theory that the propensity for war between two
nations was a function of the length of their common border. And in
Arms and Insecurity (1949), and Statistics of Deadly Quarrels (1950),
he sought to statistically analyze the causes of war. Factors he
assessed included economics, language, and religion. In the preface of
the latter, he wrote: "There is in the world a great deal of
brilliant, witty political discussion which leads to no settled
convictions. My aim has been different: namely to examine a few
notions by quantitative techniques in the hope of reaching a reliable
Research on the length of coastlines and borders
While studying the causes of war between two countries, Richardson
decided to search for a relation between the probability of two
countries going to war and the length of their common border. While
collecting data, he realised that there was considerable variation in
the various gazetted lengths of international borders. For example,
that between Spain and Portugal was variously quoted as 987 or 1214 km
while that between The Netherlands and Belgium as 380 or 449 km.
As part of his research, Richardson investigated how the measured
length of a border changes as the unit of measurement is changed. He
published empirical statistics which led to a conjectured
relationship. This research was quoted by mathematician Benoît
Mandelbrot in his 1967 paper How Long Is the Coast of Britain?.
Suppose the coast of Britain is measured using a 200 km ruler,
specifying that both ends of the ruler must touch the coast. Now cut
the ruler in half and repeat the measurement, then repeat again:
Notice that the smaller the ruler, the bigger the result. It might be
supposed that these values would converge to a finite number
representing the "true" length of the coastline. However, Richardson
demonstrated that the measured length of coastlines and other natural
features appears to increase without limit as the unit of measurement
is made smaller.
Note that Richardson's results do not mean that the coastline of
Britain is actually infinitely long. This would require the ability to
measure with infinitesimally small rulers, something which quantum
physics says cannot be done, as there is a lower limit to the
smallness of a measurement, the Planck length. What Richardson's
results do show is that natural geographic features, when considered
over a wide range of scales, do not behave in the same way as the
objects of Euclidean geometry.
At the time, Richardson's research was ignored by the scientific
community. Today, it is seen as one element in the birth of the modern
study of fractals.
Richardson died in Kilmun, Argyll, Scotland.
Lewis Fry Richardson Medal
This is a medal awarded (since 1997) by the European Geophysical
Richardson, Lewis Fry, "Generalized foreign politics," The British
Journal of Psychology, monograph supplement #23, 1939.
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