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.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Simmons, Charlotte; (2008)
William Rowan Hamilton and George Boole (/isis/citation/CBB000931920/)

Article Ehrhardt, Caroline; (2011)
Évariste Galois and the Social Time of Mathematics (/isis/citation/CBB001221117/)

Article Ehrhardt, Caroline; (2010)
A Social History of the “Galois Affair” at the Paris Academy of Sciences (1831) (/isis/citation/CBB000932775/)

Book Houston, Ken; (2000)
Creators of Mathematics: The Irish Connection (/isis/citation/CBB000320401/)

Book Alexander, Amir; (2010)
Duel at Dawn: Heroes, Martyrs, and the Rise of Modern Mathematics (/isis/citation/CBB001020030/)

Article Bruno, Giuseppe; Genovese, Andrea; Improta, Gennaro; (2011)
Routing Problems: A Historical Perspective (/isis/citation/CBB001034720/)

Article Nakane, Michiyo; Fraser, Craig G.; (2002)
The Early History of Hamilton-Jacobi Dynamics, 1834--1837 (/isis/citation/CBB000300291/)

Article Craig Fraser; Michiyo Nakane; (2023)
Canonical transformations from Jacobi to Whittaker (/isis/citation/CBB563006808/)

Book Hankins, Thomas L.; (2004)
Sir William Rowan Hamilton (/isis/citation/CBB000520068/)

Book Freund, Peter G. O.; (2007)
A Passion for Discovery (/isis/citation/CBB001250393/)

Article Enebakk, Vidar; (2009)
Lilley Revisited: Or Science and Society in the Twentieth Century (/isis/citation/CBB000952783/)

Book Juliana Adelman; (2009)
Communities of Science in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (/isis/citation/CBB484642492/)

Article Reidy, Michael; (2010)
John Tyndall's Vertical Physics: From Rock Quarries to Icy Peaks (/isis/citation/CBB001035173/)

Article Galina I. Sinkevich; (2023)
On the Development of a Complex Number Interpretation from the 16th to the End of the 19th century (/isis/citation/CBB986120792/)

Article Sørensen, Henrik Kragh; (2013)
What's Abelian about Abelian Groups? (/isis/citation/CBB001212298/)

Authors & Contributors
Nakane, Michiyo
Fraser, Craig G.
Ehrhardt, Caroline
Galina I. Sinkevich
Sacchetti, Andrea
Verburgt, Lukas M.
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
Science in Context
Revue d'Histoire des Mathématiques
Physics in Perspective
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Historia Mathematica
World Scientific
University of Pittsburgh Press
University College Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Harvard University Press
Cambridge University Press
Science and society
Hamilton, William Rowan
Galois, Évariste
Euler, Leonhard
Boole, George
Walton, William (1784-1857)
Edgeworth, Francis Ysidro
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
18th century
Early modern
Zurich (Switzerland)
Paris (France)
Great Britain
Cambridge University
Académie des Sciences, Paris

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment