Sir William Rowan Hamilton

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One of the greatest scientists to be born in Ireland was Sir William Rowan Hamilton. In addition to being a linguist, mathematician, astronomer, and physicist, he also made significant contributions to the fields of algebra, geometry, optics, and dynamics. In his honor, several of the foundational ideas in quantum physics have been given the moniker “Hamiltonian.” The “algebra of quaternions,” which aided other scientists in understanding three-dimensional geometry, was his most significant discovery. Young Hamilton was perceptive and bright from a young age, and his intellect was credited more to his mother than to his father. He was raised by his uncle for most of his young life, who taught him many different languages. He excelled in mathematics and had extensive knowledge of analytical geometry and differential calculus. His research paved the way for numerous advancements in electromagnetic and quantum mechanics research today.

Early Childhood & Life

On August 4, 1805, William Rowan Hamilton was born in Dublin, Ireland.
His mother was Sarah Hutton, and his father was a lawyer by the name of Archibald Hamilton.
Of the nine children born into the family, he was the fourth. He was given into the custody of his uncle, Reverend James Hamilton, an Anglican priest and linguist when he was about two years old.

He had a good grasp of the English language by the age of three, and by the age of five, he had mastered Hebrew and Greek. He also learned several other Asian languages, including Arabic, Sanskrit, Persian, Hindustani, and Malay, under the expert linguistic tutelage of his uncle, in addition to Italian, German, Spanish, and French.

When he was ten years old, he came upon some Latin-language mathematical writings by the Greek mathematician Euclid, the founder of geometry, who flourished around 300 B.C. After reading Euclid’s books, he became interested in geometry.

When he was twelve years old, the American math prodigy Zerah Colburn visited Ireland as part of a trip. He competed with Colburn to solve mental arithmetic puzzles but ultimately fell short. He became more interested in mathematics after his defeat to Colburn.
When he was thirteen years old, Clairaut’s book “Algebra,” which was written in French, was studied by him.

He had mastered Pierre Laplace’s “Mecanique Celeste,” Isaac Newton’s “Arithmetica Universalis,” and the “Principia” by the time he was seventeen.

When Hamilton, then just seventeen years old, discovered a contradiction in Laplace’s “Mecanique Celeste,” he brought it to the notice of Dr. John Brinkley, the first Royal Astronomer of Ireland and a professor of astronomy at Dublin’s “Trinity College.” He was commended by the lecturer for spotting the error in Laplace’s inferences.

He also wrote and turned in a paper to the professor that same year explaining how certain curves might share a tangent where their curves converged.
At the age of 18, he enrolled in the mathematics program at Dublin’s “Trinity College,” where he excelled by winning first place in every exam’s topic.

The Rise of Sir William Rowan Hamilton In 1824, he submitted a paper on “caustics” to the “Royal Irish Academy.”

The committee responsible for evaluating the paper’s validity and merit asked him to submit a more extensive paper in 1827 based on the one he had already submitted. As a result, he sent the committee a paper titled “Theory of Systems of Rays.” It described how several orthogonal light beams could be focused onto a single point using a mirror with the appropriate curvature.

Even though he was still a student, this paper made him extremely well-known in the academic community, and in 1827, when he was just 22 years old, he was assigned to the position of professor of astronomy at the “University of Dublin.” He relocated to the “Dunsink Observatory” and settled down there.

The following seven years were devoted to him giving lectures on various astronomy topics that captivated his audiences. During this time, he made acquaintances with many individuals, including poets like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Making Outstanding Findings

Hamilton suddenly understood that quadruplets, not triplets as was previously believed, were the answer to three-dimensional geometry on October 16, 1843, while strolling with his wife along the banks of Dublin’s Royal Canal.

He presented the Royal Irish Academy with a definition of the term “quaternions” in the same year and began giving lectures on the “algebra of quaternions” in 1848.

He looked at the single-vertex closed routes on the edges of “Platonic solids” like the dodecahedron in 1856. The idea was known as “Icosian Calculus,” and these closed routes later became known as “Hamiltonian circuits.”

Recent Years of Sir William Rowan Hamilton

During the last 22 years of his life, Sir William Rowan Hamilton continued his studies on “Elements of Quaternions,” which he was able to finish just a few days before he passed away.
For many years, he also lectured on the topic of “quaternions.”

Bigger Works of Sir William Rowan Hamilton

In 1834 and 1835, Sir William Rowan Hamilton wrote two significant papers based on his book “On a General Method in Dynamics.” The “Hamilton’s equations of motion” of a dynamic system were presented in the second paper.

The book “Elements of Quaternions,” which was released posthumously in 1866, is his most important contribution.

Recognition & Achievements

The Royal Irish Academy twice presented the Cunningham Medal to Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1834 and 1848).
In 1835, he was given a knighthood.

In 1837, he was chosen to fill the position of president of the “Royal Irish Academy,” which he held until 1846.

He was also admitted to the “Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences” in 1837.
Just before he passed away in 1865, he was named a “Foreign Associate” of the American “National Academy of Sciences.”

Additionally, the “Royal Astronomical Society” accepted him as a member.

Personal Legacy & Life

William Rowan Hamilton had relationships with three separate ladies as a college undergraduate, marrying the third of them.

While visiting the Disney family in Summerhill in 1824 with his uncle, he met Catherine and fell hopelessly in love with her. Since he was still a student at “Trinity College,” he was unable to make a marriage proposal to her. When her mother revealed in February 1825 that she had wed a clergyman, he was extremely offended. He was so distressed that he wanted to die and resorted to poetry for solace.
He fell in love with Ellen de Vere in July 1830 and planned to wed her, but she refused to leave Curragh once they were married, discouraging him from going through with it.

On April 9, 1833, he finally got married to Helen Maria Bayly, who lived on the other side of the field next to the observatory. From this union, he had three children: a daughter named Helen Eliza, two sons named William Edwin and Archibald Henry, and.

In the latter years of his life, Hamilton developed alcoholism and a severe level of disorder. During this time, he also battled gout, despair, and a brain seizure on August 5, 1865.

At the age of sixty, Sir William Rowan Hamilton passed away in Dublin, Ireland, on September 2, 1865, from a serious gout condition.
Hamilton Institute, a research center for applied mathematics, was established at NUI Maynooth in 2001.

In 2005, the 200th anniversary of Hamilton’s birth, Ireland designated the year as “Hamilton Year,” which was devoted to scientific study and research. This year, which also happened to be the “Einstein Year,” was named the “World Year of Physics” by UNESCO.

Famous scientists from all over the world attend the yearly “Hamilton Lecture” held by the “Royal Irish Academy.”
In his honor, the “Central Bank of Ireland” produced a commemorative coin.

He has inspired the names of many mechanical items and ideas.

Estimated net worth

The estimated net worth of Sir William Rowan Hamilton is unknown.

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