Edward John Routh FRS (20 January 1831–7 June
1907), was an English mathematician, noted as the outstanding coach
of students preparing for the Mathematical Tripos
examination of the University of Cambridge in its heyday in the middle of the nineteenth
century. He also did much to systematise the mathematical
theory of
mechanics and created several
ideas critical to the development of modern
control systems theory.
Biography
Early life
Routh was
born of an English family in Quebec, then in the
British colony of Upper Canada.
The family
could trace its history back to the Norman conquest when it acquired land at
Routh near Beverley, Yorkshire. His parents were Sir
Randolph Isham Routh (1782–1858) and
his second wife, Marie Louise (1810–1891).
Randolph was a
commissariat officer who had served at
the Battle of
Waterloo, and Marie Louise was the daughter of judge Jean-Thomas Taschereau
and the sister of judge Jean-Thomas and cardinal Elzéar-Alexandre
Taschereau.
Routh came
to England aged eleven and attended University College School and then
entered University College, London in 1847, having won a scholarship. There he studied under
Augustus De Morgan, whose
influence led to Routh to decide on a career in mathematics.
Routh obtained his
B.A. (1849) and
M.A. (1853) in London.
He
attended Peterhouse,
Cambridge, where he was taught by Isaac Todhunter and coached by "senior
wrangler maker" William
Hopkins. In 1854, Routh
graduated just above
James Clerk Maxwell, as
Senior Wrangler, sharing the
Smith's prize with him. Routh was elected
fellow of
Peterhouse in 1855.
Mathematics tutor
On graduation, Routh took up work as a private mathematics tutor in
Cambridge and took on the pupils of
William John Steele during the latter's
fatal illness, though insisting that Steele take the fees. Routh
inherited Steele's pupils, going on to establish an unbeaten record
as a coach. He coached over 600 pupils between 1855 and 1888, 27 of
them making Senior Wrangler, as to Hopkins' 17.
Routh worked conscientiously and systematically, taking rigidly
timetabled classes of ten pupils during the day and spending the
evenings preparing extra material for the ablest men. "His lectures
were enlivened by mathematical jokes of a rather heavy kind."
Routh was a staunch defender of the Cambridge competitive system
and despaired when the university started to publish examination
results in alphabetical order, observing "They will want to run
the Derby alphabetically next".
Private life
Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy sought to entice
Routh to work at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Though Airy did not succeed, at Greenwich
Routh met Airy's eldest daughter Hilda (1840-1916) whom he married
in 1864. The couple had five sons and a daughter.Routh was a
"kindly man and a good conversationalist with friends, but with
strangers he was shy and reserved."
Honours
Work
Routh collaborated with
Henry Brougham
on the
Analytical View of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia
(1855).
He published a
textbook,
Dynamics of a
System of Rigid Bodies (1860, 6th ed. 1897) in which he did
much to define and systematise the modern mathematical approach to
mechanics.
This influenced
Felix Klein and
Arnold Sommerfeld, Klein arranging the
German translation. It also did
much to influence
William Thomson and
Peter Guthrie Tait's
Treatise on Natural
Philosophy (1867).
Stability and control
In addition to his intensive work in teaching and writing, which
had a persistent effect on the presentation of
mathematical physics, he also
contributed original research such as the
Routh-Hurwitz theorem.
Central tenets of modern control systems theory relies upon the
Routh stability criterion,
an application of
Sturm's Theorem to
evaluate
Cauchy indices through the use
of the
Euclidean algorithm.
See also
References
- Fuller (2004)
- O'Connor & Robertson (2003)
Bibliography
By Routh
- Brougham and Vaux, Henry Brougham, Baron & Routh, E. J.
(ed. I. B. Cohen) [1855] (1972) Analytical View of Sir Isaac
Newton's Principia, New York: Johnson Reprint Corp.
Obituaries
- The Times, 8 June 1907
(available at O'Connor & Robertson (2003))
- Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, 2nd
ser., 5 (1907), xiv–xx;
- Nature,
76 (1907), 200–02;
- Cambridge Review, 13 June 1907, 480–81;
- H. H. T., Monthly Notices of the Royal
Astronomical Society, 68 (1907–8),
239–41
About Routh