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William Spottiswoode, mathematician

William Spottiswoode, mathematician

C004/1157

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ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Bust of William Spottiswoode (1825-1883), English mathematician. Spottiswoode was born at Laleham and was educated at Eton College and Harrow School before going up to Balliol College, Oxford. He was interested in science from an early age, his removal from Eton to Harrow being the result of one of his experiments resulting in an explosion. On graduating he entered the family's printing business where he stayed for the rest of his working life. In his spare time he worked on mathematical problems, publishing his first paper in 1847. His work was mainly in the field of determinants (used in matrix analysis) and the calculus of symbols. He was elected president of the London Mathematical Society in 1870 after which he turned to experimental physics in which he made contributions to light polarisation and electric gas discharges. In 1878 he was elected president of the Royal Society.

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