George F. Carrier

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George Carrier
6146699 - George Francis Carrier - ca 1952.jpg
At Harvard University, ca. 1952
Born (1918-05-04)4 May 1918
Millinocket, Maine
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Nationality USA
Fields Mathematics
Institutions Harvard University
Brown University
Alma mater Cornell University
Doctoral advisor J. Norman Goodier
Doctoral students Simon Ostrach
Known for Fluid dynamics
Notable awards Otto Laporte Award (1976)
Theodore von Karman Medal (1977)
Timoshenko Medal (1978)
Fluid Dynamics Prize (APS) (1984)
National Medal of Science (1990)

George Francis Carrier (May 4, 1918 – March 8, 2002) was a mathematician and the T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Applied Mathematics Emeritus of Harvard University. He was particularly noted for his ability to intuitively model a physical system and then deduce an analytical solution. He worked especially in the modeling of fluid mechanics, combustion, and tsunamis.

Born in Millinocket, Maine, he received a master's in engineering degree in 1939 and a Ph.D. in 1944 from Cornell University with a dissertation in applied mechanics entitled Investigations in the Field of Aeolotropic Elasticity and the Bending of the Sectorial-Plate under the supervision of J. Norman Goodier.[1] He was co-author of a number of mathematical textbooks and over 100 journal papers.

In 1990, he received the National Medal of Science, the United States' highest scientific award, presented by President Bush, for his contributions to the natural sciences.[2]

He died from esophageal cancer on March 8, 2002.

Carrier's Rule

Carrier is known for "Carrier's Rule",[3] a humorous explanation of why divergent asymptotic series often yield good approximations if the first few terms are taken even when the expansion parameter is of order one, while in the case of a convergent series many terms are needed to get a good approximation: “Divergent series converge faster than convergent series because they don't have to converge.”



  1. Abernathy FH and Bryson AE (2007) George F. Carrier, in "Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering", Vol. 11, 46-51.
  2. National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science
  3. J. P. Boyd, The Devil's Invention: Asymptotic, Superasymptotic and Hyperasymptotic Series, Acta Applicandae Mathematicae: An International Survey Journal on Applying Mathematics and Mathematical Applications 56, 1-98 (1999) PDF of preprint


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