Ruth Rogers obituary

Other lives: Mathematician who made valuable contributions in the field of fluid mechanics

My friend and colleague Ruth Rogers, who has died aged 91, was a mathematician deeply involved with solving important engineering problems. Her main area of interest was in fluid mechanics, and in particular rotating fluids – a meeting point between engineering and meteorology. It was here that Ruth was able to make some of her most valuable theoretical contributions.

Rotating fluids play a significant role in the Earth’s weather system, which is driven by a combination of rotation and temperature gradients created by the sun’s radiation. Like the Earth’s weather system, much of the flow inside the internal cooling-air systems of gas turbines is driven by rotation and temperature gradients. Ruth’s research, which led to the publication of two research monographs and a number of important papers, underpinned many of the theoretical models that are now used by engineering designers in most of the world’s leading gas turbine companies.

Ruth was born in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, to John Rogers, a grocer, and Dorothy (nee Biffen). She attended Tiffin girls’ school from 1937 to 1941 and – after her parents moved to London – Chiswick county girls’ school from 1941 to 1945. She was an only child whose parents were Plymouth Brethren, but she rejected their religion and became an atheist for several years before being confirmed in her 30s in the Church of England, in which she later became a lay reader.

At Queen Mary College, University of London, she was awarded a BSc in mathematics and physics in 1948 and a PhD, researching in dynamic meteorology, in 1953. After leaving QMC, she lectured at the universities of London and Manchester and at the University College of Wales as well as working for three years as a senior scientific officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough.

However, it was at the University of Sussex that she spent most of her academic career, starting in the School of Mathematics as a lecturer in 1962 and later becoming a reader. At the time of her appointment, which was in the second year of the university’s foundation, Ruth was one of only two female academics in the new science faculty.

Her knowledge and interest in rotating fluids made her a natural partner for research with academics in the Thermo-Fluid-Mechanics Research Centre (TFMRC) at Sussex, where the main application of the research was in the design of gas turbines.

She took early retirement in 1982, in the first wave of cuts to university funding by the Thatcher government. Ruth continued to teach part time, and she carried on her research collaboration and publication for many more years, with the second of her two co-authored monographs on flow and heat transfer in rotating-disc systems published in 1995.

Ruth lived in Lewes, East Sussex, and following her retirement she was interested in travelling, Sudoku, computing and genealogy.

She is survived by four cousins.

Mike Owen

The GuardianTramp

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