Elected FRS 1959
Sylvia Agnes Sophia Tait was born on 8 January 1917 in Tumen, Siberia, Russia. She was the daughter of James Wardropper, an agronomist and trader, working in Russia. It seems that James Wardropper worked there with his elder brother, Robert (Huntford 1997). The wife of James Wardropper, Ludmilla, was a Russian who had the rare distinction of graduating in mathematics from the University of Moscow in the time of the reign of the Tsar. James and Ludmilla Wardropper adopted a Russian girl, Pasha; she became part of the family and helped to look after Sylvia. During the revolution, in 1920 the whole family, including Pasha (but not including Robert) left Russia from Vladivostok for the UK, where James Wardropper eventually became a successful civil engineer. The fate of Robert Wardropper remains a mystery. The other Wardroppers first stayed in the UK in Ealing, London, where Sylvia attended the local secondary school, the Ealing County School for Girls. In her senior years there, she mainly studied languages, particularly German but also French and Latin. The Wardroppers had relatives in Germany and, before World War II, Sylvia spent some time in Germany, including Berlin, which improved her German. In addition, of course, at that time she spoke fairly fluent Russian with her mother and step-sister, Pasha. Sylvia had considerable trouble in establishing her citizenship because of her birthplace but eventually was officially declared British. Because of the nature of the father's history as a Scottish engineer in Russia and also the effects of the revolution, Sylvia never met her maternal grandparents and knew little about them.