Cambridge University's Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics is one of the most celebrated academic positions in the world. Since its foundation in 1663, the chair has been held by seventeen men who represent some of the best and most influential minds in science and technology. Principally a social history of mathematics and physics, the story of these great natural philosophers and mathematical physicists is told here by some of the finest historians of science. The journey begins with the search for a benefactor able to establish a 'mathematicus professor honorarius', and travels through the life and work of the professors, exploring aspects from the heroic to the absurd. Covering both the great similarities and the extreme differences in mathematical physics over the last four centuries, this informative work offers interesting perspectives on world-famous scientists including Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage, G. G. Stokes, Paul Dirac and Stephen Hawking.
• Places well-known scientists within the broad and complex history of the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics • Emphasises the interplay between mathematics, natural philosophy, politics and religion inside and outside Cambridge University • Written by leading historians of science, including a foreword by Stephen Hawking
List of illustrations; List of contributors; Foreword Stephen Hawking; Preface; Timeline of the Lucasian professorship; Introduction: 'Mind almost divine' Kevin C. Knox and Richard Noakes; 1. Isaac Barrow and the foundation of the Lucasian professorship Mordechai Feingold; 2. 'Very accomplished mathematician, philosopher, chemist': Newton as Lucasian professor Rob Iliffe; 3. Making Newton easy: William Whiston in Cambridge and London Stephen D. Snobelen and Larry Stewart; 4. Sensible Newtonians: Nicholas Saunderson and John Colson John Gascoigne; 5. The negative side of nothing: Edward Waring, Isaac Milner and Newtonian values Kevin C. Knox; 6. Paper and brass: the Lucasian professorship 1820–39 Simon Schaffer; 7. Arbiters of Victorian science: George Gabriel Stokes and Joshua King David B. Wilson; 8. 'That universal æthereal plenum': Joseph Larmor's natural history of physics Andrew Warwick; 9. Paul Dirac: the purest soul in an atomic age Helge Kragh; 10. Is the end in sight for the Lucasian chair? Stephen Hawking as Millennium Professor Hélène Mialet; Appendix. The statutes of the Lucasian professorship: a translation Ian Stewart; Index.
'… a book that can be enjoyed by all interested in the history of science.' Scientific and Medical Network Review
'… the volume is striking for both its narrative and its original research.' Nature
'… a magnificent history of mathematics and physics …' New Scientist
'By revealing failures and foibles rather than telling conventional stories of truth and triumph, this book provides a multifaceted view of the past that places human beings centre-stage in science's history … these writers convincingly illustrate how even science's greatest heroes are idiosyncratic individuals enmeshed in a wide network of activists and interests … surprised and fascinated by the intricate cultural tapestry woven here.' Notes of Records of the Royal Society