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Written by David Singmaster (firstname.lastname@example.org ). Links to relevant external websites are being added occasionally to this gazetteer but the BSHM has no control over the availability or contents of these links. Please inform the BSHM Webster (A.Mann@gre.ac.uk) of any broken links.
[When the gazetteer was edited for serial publication in the BSHM Newsletter, references were omitted since the bibliography was too substantial to be included. Publication on the web permits references to be included for material now being added to the website, but they are still absent from material originally prepared for the Newsletter - TM, August 2002]
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At one time there were two universities here (Marischal College and King's College)--as many as in all England. They merged in 1860 and had to dismiss duplicate professors. One of the professors of natural philosophy, since 1856, was James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), who was released, supposedly on the grounds that he could get another job while the other professor couldn't. The other man was Faraday's nephew David Thomson, a capable teacher and senior to Maxwell, so perhaps there were other reasons for the decision. In 1858 Maxwell married Katherine Mary Dewar, daughter of the Principal of Marischal College.
James Gregorie (1638-1675) was born at the Manse of Drumoak, 11 miles from Aberdeen. He was a student at Aberdeen Grammar School and Marischal College. He developed the idea of the Gregorian reflecting telecope here, describing it in his Optica promota (1663), but could not get one made, even in London.
His nephew David Gregory (1659-1708) was born in Upper Kirkgate, Aberdeen. He studied at Aberdeen Grammar School and went to Marischal College at age 12, being there 1671-1675, though there is no evidence of his taking a degree. [There will be more Gregory under Edinburgh, Oxford, Maidenhead and St Andrews!]
Colin Maclaurin (1698-1746) was appointed professor of mathematics at Marischal College in 1717, at the age of 19. Sir Edward Wright told me that Maclaurin never took up the post, but Tweedie's biography shows that he taught diligently until 1722 when he accompanied a Mr Hume (the son of Lord Polwarth) on a European tour for the long vacation which was extended for three years, though he didn't request leave from the University. Hume died and Maclaurin returned about the turn of 1724/1725 and was reinstated in April 1725. However, later that year he accepted a post in Edinburgh, mving there in November 1725. In Jan 1726, his chair at Aberdeen was declared vacant and he resigned from it.
G. P. Thomson (1892- ) was professor of natural philosophy 1922-1930, during which time he demonstrated the wave diffraction of electrons (1927), for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1937.
E. M. (Sir Edward) Wright (of 'Hardy and Wright') was professor and Principal of the University for many years until his retirement in the 1970s.
W. H. Young (1863-1942) was professor of mathematics here 1919-1923.
Harold Davenport (1907-1969) was born near Accrington, probably at Huncoat where his father was clerk at the Perseverance Mill. He attended Accrington Grammar School.
William Oughtred (1574-1660), the inventor of the slide rule, was Rector of Albury from 1608 or 1610 until his death. Here he tutored many young mathematicians of the time, including Wallis, Ward, Moore, Scarburgh and Wren; and all English mathematicians for the next century, including Isaac Newton, learned algebra from his Clavis mathematicae (1631). Seth Ward stayed here with Oughtred after his expulsion from Cambridge during the Civil War.
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Annan has an Academy where Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was a student (1805-1809), and then, after his studies at Edinburgh University, mathematics master 1814-1816. Carlyle, the son of a stonemason, was born at nearby Ecclefechan.
The theoretical physicist Joseph Larmor (1857-1942), Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge 1903-1932, was a farmer's son born at Magheragall, County Antrim.
Sir John Wilson (1741-1793), of Wilson's Theorem (in number theory) was born here.
The home of John Arbuthnot (1667-1735), who in 1692 translated Christiaan Huygens' book on probability into English as Of the laws of chance, and in 1712 gave the first example of a mathematical statistical inference when considering the imbalance of male and female births.
Ashford was where John Wallis (1616-1703) was born.
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Written by David Singmaster. Last updated on 28th February 2003 by TM (A.Mann@gre.ac.uk). Copyright © BSHM and David Singmaster 1998 - 2003. All rights reserved.
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