William Rowan Hamilton

Sir William Rowan Hamilton LL.D, DCL, MRIA (3 August 1805 – 2 September 1865)[1] was an Irish mathematician, Andrews Professor of Astronomy at Trinity College Dublin, and Royal Astronomer of Ireland. He worked in both pure mathematics and mathematics for physics. He made important contributions to optics, classical mechanics and algebra. Although Hamilton was not a physicist–he regarded himself as a pure mathematician–his work was of major importance to physics, particularly his reformulation of Newtonian mechanics, now called Hamiltonian mechanics. This work has proven central to the modern study of classical field theories such as electromagnetism, and to the development of quantum mechanics. In pure mathematics, he is best known as the inventor of quaternions.

Sir William Rowan Hamilton
Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805–1865)
Born(1805-08-04)4 August 1805
Dublin, Ireland
Died2 September 1865(1865-09-02) (aged 60)
Dublin, Ireland
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin
Known forHamilton's principle
Hamiltonian mechanics
Hamilton–Jacobi equation
Hamiltonian path
Icosian calculus
Nabla symbol
Coining the word 'tensor'
Coining the word 'scalar'
cis notation
Hamiltonian vector field
Icosian game
Universal algebra
Hamiltonian group
Cayley–Hamilton theorem
Spouse(s)Helen Maria Bayly
ChildrenWilliam Edwin Hamilton, Archibald Henry Hamilton, Helen Eliza Amelia O'Regan Hamilton
AwardsRoyal Medal (1835)
Scientific career
FieldsMathematics, astronomy, physics
InstitutionsTrinity College, Dublin
Academic advisorsJohn Brinkley
InfluencesZerah Colburn
John T. Graves
InfluencedPeter Guthrie Tait

William Rowan Hamilton's scientific career included the study of geometrical optics, classical mechanics, adaptation of dynamic methods in optical systems, applying quaternion and vector methods to problems in mechanics and in geometry, development of theories of conjugate algebraic couple functions (in which complex numbers are constructed as ordered pairs of real numbers), solvability of polynomial equations and general quintic polynomial solvable by radicals, the analysis on Fluctuating Functions (and the ideas from Fourier analysis), linear operators on quaternions and proving a result for linear operators on the space of quaternions (which is a special case of the general theorem which today is known as the Cayley–Hamilton theorem). Hamilton also invented "icosian calculus", which he used to investigate closed edge paths on a dodecahedron that visit each vertex exactly once.