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At the
University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts. Non literal: From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledge. , established = , other_name = The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of ...
in England, a "Wrangler" is a student who gains
first-class honours The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading structure for undergraduate degree An undergraduate degree (also called first degree or simply degree) is a colloquial term for an academic degree earned by a person who has comp ...
in the final year of the university's degree in mathematics. The highest-scoring student is the
Senior Wrangler 300px, 2013 in the same room: the examiner announces the results of the same examinations. In keeping with recent tradition, he raises his academic cap to identify the Senior Wrangler (here Arran Fernandez); at the end he follows the older tradit ...
, the second highest is the Second Wrangler, and so on. At the other end of the scale, the person who achieves the lowest exam marks while still earning a third-class honours degree (that is, while still earning an honours degree at all) is known as the
wooden spoon A wooden spoon is a Kitchen utensil, utensil commonly used in food preparation. History The word ''spoon'' derives from an ancient word meaning a chip of wood or horn carved from a larger piece. Wooden spoons were easy to carve and thus inexp ...
. Until 1909, the university made the rankings public. Since 1910 it has publicly revealed only the class of degree gained by each student. An examiner reveals the identity of the Senior Wrangler "unofficially" by tipping his hat when reading out the person's name, but other rankings are communicated to each student privately. Therefore, the names of only some 20th-century
Senior Wranglers Senior (shortened as Sr.) means "the elder" in Latin and is often used as a suffix for the elder of two or more people in the same family with the same given name, usually a parent or grandparent. It may also refer to: * Senior (name), a surname ...
(such as
Crispin Nash-Williams Crispin St. John Alvah Nash-Williams FRSE Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national academy of science and Literature, letters, judged to b ...
, Christopher Budd, Frank P. Ramsey,
Donald Coxeter Harold Scott MacDonald "Donald" Coxeter, (February 9, 1907 – March 31, 2003) was a British and later also Canadian geometer. He is regarded as one of the greatest geometers of the 20th century. Biography Coxeter was born in Kensington to ...
,
Kevin Buzzard Kevin Mark Buzzard (born 21 September 1968) is a United Kingdom, British mathematician and currently a Professor of Pure Mathematics at Imperial College London. He specialises in algebraic number theory. Biography While attending the Royal Gramma ...
,
Jayant Narlikar Jayant Vishnu Narlikar (born 19 July 1938) is an Indian astrophysicist and emeritus professor at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA). He developed with Sir Fred Hoyle the conformal gravity theory, known as Hoy ...
, George Reid and
Ben J. Green Ben Joseph Green FRS (born 27 February 1977) is a British mathematician, specialising in combinatorics Combinatorics is an area of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (num ...
) have become publicly known. Another notable was
Philippa Fawcett Philippa Garrett Fawcett (4 April 1868 – 10 June 1948) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as ...
. She was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge which had been co-founded by her mother. In 1890, Fawcett became the first woman to obtain the top score in the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos exams. Her score was 13 per cent higher than the second highest score. When the women's list was announced, Fawcett was described as "above the senior wrangler", but she did not receive the title of senior wrangler, as at that time only men could receive degrees and therefore only men were eligible for the Senior Wrangler title. The results were always highly publicised, with the top scorers receiving great acclaim. Women had been allowed to take the Tripos since 1881, after
Charlotte Angas Scott Charlotte Angas Scott (8 June 1858, Lincoln, England, Lincoln, England – 10 November 1931, Cambridge, England) was a British mathematics, mathematician who made her career in the United States and was influential in the development of American ...

Charlotte Angas Scott
was unofficially ranked as eighth wrangler. The strain of preparing for
Tripos TRIPOS (''TRIvial Portable Operating System'') is a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic ...
could lead to
mental breakdown A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitting, or oc ...
. Students found it necessary to build up their physical
endurance Endurance (also related to sufferance, resilience, constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation An organization, or o ...

endurance
. It was noted that "virtually every high wrangler (for whom records exist) participated in some form of regular
physical exercise Exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness Physical fitness is a state of health Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential valu ...
to preserve his strength and stamina." Obtaining the position of a highly ranked Wrangler created many opportunities for the individual's subsequent profession. They would often become
Fellow A fellow is a broad concept whose exact meaning depends on context. In learned Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, value (personal and cultural), values, attitudes, and preferences. The abil ...
s initially, before moving on to other professions, such as law, the Church, or medicine. Throughout the United Kingdom and the British Empire, university mathematics professors were often among the top three Wranglers. The order of Wranglers was widely publicised and shaped the public perception of mathematics as being the most intellectually challenging of all subjects. According to Andrew Warwick, author of ''Masters of Theory'', the term 'Senior Wrangler' became "synonymous with academic supremacy".


Past wranglers

Top marks in the Cambridge mathematics exam did not always guarantee the Senior Wrangler success in life; the exams were largely a test of speed in applying familiar rules, and some of the most inventive and original students of Mathematics at Cambridge did not come top of their class.
Kelvin The kelvin is the base unit of temperature Temperature ( ) is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy Thermal radiation in visible light can be seen on this hot metalwork. Thermal en ...

Kelvin
was second,
BraggBragg may refer to: Places *Bragg City, Missouri, United States *Bragg, Texas, a ghost town, United States *Bragg, West Virginia, an unincorporated community, United States *Electoral district of Bragg, a state electoral district in South Australia, ...

Bragg
was third,
De Morgan De Morgan or de Morgan is a surname, and may refer to: *Augustus De Morgan Augustus De Morgan (27 June 1806 – 18 March 1871) was a British mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematic ...

De Morgan
and
Hardy Hardy may refer to: People * Hardy (surname) * Hardy (given name) * Hardy (singer), American singer-songwriter Places Antarctica * Mount Hardy, Enderby Land * Hardy Cove, Greenwich Island * Hardy Rocks, Biscoe Islands Australia * Hardy, South A ...
were fourth, fifth,
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose know ...
seventh,
Malthus Thomas Robert Malthus (; 13/14 February 1766 – 23 December 1834) was an English cleric Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, beh ...

Malthus
ninth,
Keynes John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, ( ; 5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946) was an English economist An economist is a professional and practitioner in the social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science de ...

Keynes
twelfth, and some fared even worse:
Klaus Roth Klaus Friedrich Roth (29 October 1925 – 10 November 2015) was a German-born British mathematician who won the Fields Medal for proving Roth's theorem on the Diophantine approximation of algebraic numbers. He was also a winner of the De Morg ...
was not even a wrangler.
Joan Clarke Joan Elisabeth Lowther Murray, Member of the Order of the British Empire, MBE (''née'' Clarke; 24 June 1917 – 4 September 1996) was an English cryptanalyst and numismatist best known for her work as a Cryptanalysis, code-breaker at Bletchle ...
, who helped to break the Nazi Enigma code at Bletchley Park, was a wrangler at Cambridge and earned a double first in mathematics, although she was prevented from receiving a full degree based on the university's policy of awarding degrees only to men. That policy was only abandoned in 1948. The present
Astronomer Royal Astronomer Royal is a senior post in the Royal Households of the United Kingdom. There are two officers, the senior being the Astronomer Royal dating from 22 June 1675; the second is the Astronomer Royal for Scotland dating from 1834. The post ...
,
Martin Rees Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where: (born 23 June 1942) is a British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British peo ...
, a wrangler, would go on to become one of the world's leading scientists, while also holding the posts of master of Trinity College (Cambridge) and president of the Royal Society.


Optimes

Students who achieve second-class and third-class mathematics degrees are known as Senior Optimes (second-class) and Junior Optimes (third-class). Cambridge did not divide its examination classification in mathematics into 2:1s and 2:2s until 1995 but now there are ''Senior Optimes Division 1'' and ''Senior Optimes Division 2''.


In fiction

*"The Senior Wrangler" is a member of the
faculty Faculty may refer to: * Faculty (academic staff), the academic staff of a university (North American usage) * Faculty (division), a division within a university (usage outside of the United States) * Faculty (instrument), an instrument or warrant ...
of
Unseen University The Unseen University (UU) is a school of wizardry in 's ' series of fantasy novels. Located in the fictional city of , the UU is staffed by a faculty composed of mostly indolent and inept old wizards. The university's name is a pun on the , and ...
in
Terry Pratchett Sir Terence David John Pratchett (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015) was an English humorist A humorist (American English, American) or humourist (British English, British spelling) is an intellectual who uses humor, or wit, in writing or pu ...
's
Discworld ''Discworld'' is a comic fantasy Fantasy comedy or comic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is primarily humorous in intent and tone. Typically set in imaginary worlds, fantasy comedy often includes puns on and parodies of other works of ...

Discworld
series of
novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfiction Nonfiction (also spelled non-fiction) is any document A document is a written ...

novel
s. * Roger Hamley, a character in
Elizabeth Gaskell Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (''née'' Stevenson; 29 September 1810 – 12 November 1865), often referred to as Mrs Gaskell, was an English novelist, biographer and short story writer. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many st ...

Elizabeth Gaskell
's ''
Wives and Daughters ''Wives and Daughters, An Every-Day Story'' is a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, first published in the '' Cornhill Magazine'' as a serial from August 1864 to January 1866. It was partly written whilst Gaskell was staying with the salon hostess M ...

Wives and Daughters
'', achieved the rank of Senior Wrangler at Cambridge. * Vivie Warren, the headstrong heroine of George Bernard Shaw's '' Mrs. Warren's Profession'' (1893) and daughter of the play's infamous madam, tied with the Third Wrangler, settling for that place because she recognized that "it was not worth while to face the grind" because she did not intend an academic career for herself. *"Wrangler" is a
jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The conte ...
term applied to
codebreakers cipher machine Cryptanalysis (from the Greek language, Greek ''kryptós'', "hidden", and ''analýein'', "to analyze") is the study of analyzing information systems in order to study the hidden aspects of the systems. Cryptanalysis is used to bre ...
in some of
John Le Carré David John Moore Cornwell (19 October 193112 December 2020), better known by his pen name A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a pseudonym (or, in some cases, a variant form of a real name) adopted by an autho ...
's
spy Espionage or spying is the act of obtaining secret or confidential information or divulging of the same without the permission of the holder of the information. A person who commits espionage is called an ''espionage agent'' or ''spy''. Spi ...

spy
novels, such as ''
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ''Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'' is a 1974 spy novel by British author John le Carré. It follows the endeavours of taciturn, aging spymaster George Smiley to uncover a Soviet mole (espionage), mole in the British Secret Intelligence Service. T ...
''. * Thomas Jericho, the main character of Robert Harris's book ''
Enigma Enigma, aenigma, or The Enigma may refer to: * Riddle, someone or something that is mysterious or puzzling Biology * Aenigma (beetle), ''Aenigma'' (beetle), a genus of beetles * ''Zulunigma'' or ''Aenigma'', a genus of jumping spiders from South A ...
'', was Senior Wrangler in 1938. * In
Ford Madox Ford Ford Madox Ford (né Joseph Leopold Ford Hermann Madox Hueffer ( ); 17 December 1873 – 26 June 1939) was an English novelist, poet, critic and editor whose journals ''The English Review'' and ''The Transatlantic Review (1924), The Transatlant ...

Ford Madox Ford
's ''
Parade's End ''Parade's End'' (1924-1928) is a tetralogy of novels by the British novelist and poet Ford Madox Ford (1873–1939). The novels chronicle the life of a member of the English gentry before, during and after World War I. The setting is mainly ...

Parade's End
'', reference is made to the fact that Christopher Tietjens came out of Cambridge as "a mere Second Wrangler". * In
Rumer Godden Margaret Rumer Godden (10 December 1907 – 8 November 1998) was an English author of more than 60 fiction Fiction generally is a narrative form, in any media (communication), medium, consisting of people, events, or places that are imagi ...
's '' In This House of Brede'', Dame Agnes is noted to have been Eighth Wrangler before entering the abbey. * In C S Forester's book, '' The General'', a member of the main character's staff (the deputy assistant quartermaster-general, Spiller) is described as a Second Wrangler. * In
Bram Stoker Abraham Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish author, best known today for his 1897 Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes * ...

Bram Stoker
's ''The Judge's House'', the main character Malcom Malcomson is looking for a quiet place to stay whilst preparing his
Mathematical Tripos The Mathematical Tripos is the mathematics course that is taught in the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. It is the oldest Tripos examined at the University. Origin In its classical nineteenth-century form, the tripos was a ...
examinations. Mrs Witham, the inn's landlady, warns Malcom about the judge's house but the charwoman, Mrs Dempster, dispels these fears explaining she is not afraid of 'bogies' because they are only rats. Malcom replies "Mrs. Dempster, ..you know more than a Senior Wrangler! And let me say, that, as a mark of esteem for your indubitable soundness of head and heart, I shall, when I go, give you possession of this house, and let you stay here by yourself for the last two months of my tenancy, for four weeks will serve my purpose."


See also

*
List of mathematics awards This list of mathematics awards is an index to articles about notable awards for mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra) ...


Notes


References

* * D. O. Forfar (1996/7) ''What became of the senior wranglers?'', ''Mathematical spectrum'' 29, 1–4. ** a survey of the subsequent careers of senior wranglers during the 157 years (1753–1909) in which the results of Cambridge's mathematical tripos were published in order of merit. * Peter Groenewegen (2003). '' A Soaring Eagle: Alfred Marshall 1842-1924''. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. . ** gives the story about Rayleigh;
Alfred Marshall Alfred Marshall (26 July 1842 – 13 July 1924) was an English economist, who was one of the most influential economists of his time. His book, '' Principles of Economics'' (1890), was the dominant economic textbook in England for many years. ...

Alfred Marshall
was the commoner who came second to Rayleigh. * C. M. Neale (1907) ''The Senior Wranglers of the University of Cambridge''. Availabl
online
* Andrew Warwick (2003) ''Masters of Theory: Cambridge and the Rise of Mathematical Physics''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ** a very thorough account of the Cambridge system in the 19th century. Appendix A lists the top 10 wranglers from 1865 to 1909 with their coaches and their colleges.


External links

Information on the wranglers in the period 1860–1940 can be extracted from the BritMath database:

Many of the wranglers who made careers in mathematics can be identified by searching on "wrangler" in:
The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive
{{University of Cambridge 1748 establishments in England 1909 disestablishments in England Mathematical awards and prizes of the University of Cambridge Mathematics education in the United Kingdom Terminology of the University of Cambridge