Article ID: CBB864123041

A Most Gossiped About Genius: Sir William Rowan Hamilton (2018)


The Irish mathematician Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805–65) is often portrayed as an unhappily married alcoholic. We show how this image originated in the 1840s, caused by a combination of the strict social rules of the Victorian era and the then changing drinking habits in Ireland. In the 1880s Hamilton's biographer Graves tried to restore Hamilton's reputation by blaming Lady Hamilton for her husband's habits. This unintentionally caused his biography to become the basis of Hamilton's overall negative image. We argue for a far more positive description of Hamilton's private life. Thereafter we trace the evolution of the negative image using an anecdote about Hamilton's work habits and its increasingly distorted representations.

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Authors & Contributors
Ehrhardt, Caroline
Craik, Alex D. D.
Hamilton, William Rowan
Scaife, Brendan
Fraser, Craig G.
Nakane, Michiyo
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Science in Context
British Journal for the History of Science
Physics in Perspective
American Mathematical Monthly
Cambridge University Press
University College Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Harvard University Press
American Mathematical Society
World Scientific
Science and society
Hamilton, William Rowan
Galois, Évariste
Boole, George
Jacobi, Karl Gustav Jakob
Harriot, Thomas
Stokes, George Gabriel
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
Great Britain
Paris (France)
Académie des Sciences, Paris
Cambridge University

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