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Dame Kathleen Mary Ollerenshaw, née Timpson, DBE (born 1 October 1912, Withington, Manchester) is a British mathematician and politician. Deaf since the age of eight, she loved doing arithmetic problems as a child. As a young woman, she attended St Leonards School and Sixth Form College in St Andrews, Scotland where today the house of young male boarders is named after her. At the age of 19, she gained admittance to Somerville College, Oxford to study mathematics. She completed her doctorate at Somerville in 1945 on "Critical Lattices" under the supervision of Theo Chaundy. She wrote five original research papers which were sufficient for her to earn her DPhil degree without the need of a formal written thesis.

While an undergraduate, she became engaged to Colonel Robert Ollerenshaw, who became a distinguished military surgeon, a pioneer of medical illustration, and was High Sheriff of Greater Manchester from 1978 to 1979. They married in September 1939. After the Second World War, the Ollerenhaws moved to Manchester, where Kathleen worked as a part-time lecturer in the mathematics department at Manchester University and continued her work on lattices. In 1949, at the age of 37, she received her first effective hearing aid.

Ollerenshaw served as a Conservative Councillor for Rusholme for twenty-six years (1956–1981), was Lord Mayor of Manchester (1975–1976), and the prime motivator in the creation of the Royal Northern College of Music. She was made a Freeman of the City of Manchester and was an advisor on educational matters to Margaret Thatcher's government in the 1980s.

She has published at least 26 mathematical papers, her best-known contribution being to most-perfect pandiagonal magic squares. An annual public lecture at the School of Mathematics, University of Manchester is named in her honour.[1]

An amateur astronomer, Ollerenshaw donated her telescope to Lancaster University, and an observatory there bears her name. She is an honorary member of the Manchester Astronomical Society and held the post of Vice President for a number of years.

Dame Kathleen attended St Leonards School in St Andrews, Fife and served as the school's president from 1981-2003. She was succeeded by Baroness Byford, Conservative spokeswoman in the House of Lords.


Composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies dedicated his Naxos Quartet No.9 to her.[2]

Ollerenshaw has an Erdős number of 5 by way of Hermann Bondi, Ivor Robinson, Peter Bergmann and Ernst G. Straus.


In 1970, Ollerenshaw was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to education.

^ Manchester Institute for Mathematical Sciences
^ Listing from Naxos.com


Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, To Talk of Many Things: an autobiography, Manchester Univ Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7190-6987-4
Kathleen Ollerenshaw, David S. Brée: Most-perfect Pandiagonal Magic Squares: their construction and enumeration, Southend-on-Sea: Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, 1998, 186 pages, ISBN 0-905091-06-X
Kathleen Ollerenshaw, Herman Bondi, Magic Squares of Order Four, Scholium Intl, 1983, ISBN 0-85403-201-0
Kathleen Ollerenshaw, First Citizen, Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1977, ISBN 0-246-10976-9
K. M. Ollerenshaw; D. S. Brée, "Most-perfect pandiagonal magic squares", in: Mathematics Today, 1998, vol. 34, pp. 139–143. ISSN 1361-2042.
D. S. Brée and K. M. Ollerenshaw, "Pandiagonal magic-squares from mixed auxiliary squares", in: Mathematics Today, 1998, vol. 34, pp. 105–118. ISSN 1361-2042.

External links

"Dame Kathleen Timpson Ollerenshaw", Biographies of Women Mathematicians, Agnes Scott College
O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Kathleen Ollerenshaw", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
*Kathleen Ollerenshaw at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
Interview on BBC Radio 4
Manchester Politicians, with biographical sketch
The Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw Observatory at Lancaster University
The Manchester Astronomical Society

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