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The origin of Ferrers graphs

  • Clark Kimberling (a1)
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Every year, thousands of students around the world encounter Ferrers graphs. Most of these students probably assume that Ferrers was a mathematician and that his name is among the hundreds at a well-known website specialising in mathematical biography. The first assumption is correct.

Norman Macleod Ferrers was born 11 August 1829 in Gloucester. In 1851, he received a BA degree from Cambridge University, with honours. He was Senior Wrangler and winner of first prize in the Smith mathematics competition. He studied law and was called to the bar in 1855, but returned to Caius College in 1856 as a mathematical lecturer, and was ordained apriest in 1861.

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1. SirLee, Sidney, editor, The Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, vol. 2, (January 1901-December 1911), Oxford University Press.
2. Poggendorff, J. C., Biographisch-literarisches Handworterbuch der exakten Naturwissenschaften, vol. 3, J. A. Barth, Lepzig, (1898).
3. Sylvester, J. J., On Mr. Cayley’s impromptu demonstration of the rule for determining at sight the degree of any symmetrical function of the roots of an equation expressed in terms of the coefficients, Philosophical Magazine 5 (1853) pp. 199202.
4. Grosser, Morton, The discovery of Neptune, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1962).
5. Smart, W. M., John Couch Adams and the discovery of Neptune, Occasional Notes of the Royal Astronomical Society, 11, (August 1947), pp. 3288.
6. Sylvester, J. J., A constructive theory of partitions, arranged in three acts, an interact and an exodion, American Journal of Mathematics 5 (1982) pp. 251330.
7. Parshall, Karen Hunger, America’s first school of mathematical research: James Joseph Sylvester at The Johns Hopkins University 1876–1883, Archive for History of Exact Sciences 38 (1988) pp. 153196.
8. Crilly, Tony, A mathematician extraordinary: James Joseph Sylvester (1814–1897), Math. Gaz. 81 (March 1997) pp. 711.
9. Ferrers, Norman Macleod, letter to J. J. Sylvester, February 23, 1883, St. John’s College Library, Cambridge, Sylvester Papers, Box 2.
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The Mathematical Gazette
  • ISSN: 0025-5572
  • EISSN: 2056-6328
  • URL: /core/journals/mathematical-gazette
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