Isaac Todhunter FRS (23
November 1820 – 1
March 1884), was an English mathematician who is best known today for the
books he wrote on mathematics and its history.
Life and work
The son of
George Todhunter, a Nonconformist
minister, and Mary née Hume, he was born at Rye, Sussex.He was educated at
Hastings, where his
mother had opened a school after the death of his father in
1826. He became an assistant master at a school at
Peckham, attending at the same time evening classes at the
College, London where he was influenced by Augustus De Morgan.
In 1842 he
obtained a mathematical scholarship and graduated as B.A. at
, where he was
awarded the gold medal on the M.A. examination. About this time he
became mathematical master at a school at Wimbledon.
Todhunter entered St John's College, Cambridge, where he was senior
wrangler in 1848, and gained the first Smith's prize and the Burney prize; and in
1849 he was elected to a fellowship, and began his life of college
lecturer and private tutor.
In 1862 he was made a fellow of
the Royal Society
, and in 1865 a
member of the Mathematical Society of London. In 1871 he gained the
and was elected to the
council of the Royal Society
. He was
elected honorary fellow of St John's in 1874, having resigned his
fellowship on his marriage in 1864. In 1880 his eyesight began to
fail, and shortly afterwards he was attacked with paralysis.
Todhunter married 13 August 1864 to Louisa Anna Maria, eldest
daughter of Captain (afterwards Admiral) George Davies, R.N. (at
that time head of the county constabulary force). He died on 1
March 1884, at his residence, 6 Brookside, Cambridge. A mural
tablet and medallion portrait were placed in the ante-chapel of his
college by his widow, who, with four sons and one daughter,
He was a sound Latin and Greek scholar, familiar with French,
German, Spanish, Italian, and also Russian, Hebrew, and Sanscrit.
He was well versed in the history of philosophy, and on three
occasions acted as examiner for the moral sciences tripos.
- Treatise on the Differential Calculus and the Elements of
the Integral Calculus (1852, 6th ed., 1873)
- Treatise on Analytical Statics (1853, 4th ed.,
- Treatise on the Integral Calculus (1857, 4th ed.,
- Treatise on Algebra (1858, 6th ed., 1871)
- Treatise on Plane Coordinate Geometry (1858, 3rd ed.,
- Plane Trigonometry (1859, 4th ed., 1869)
- Spherical Trigonometry (1859)
- History of the Calculus of Variations (1861)
- Theory of Equations (1861, 2nd ed. 1875)
- Examples of Analytical Geometry of Three Dimensions
(1858, 3rd ed., 1873)
- Mechanics (1867)
- History of the Mathematical Theory of Probability from the
Time of Pascal to that of Lagrange (1865)
- Researches in the Calculus of Variations (1871)
- History of the Mathematical Theories of Attraction and
Figure of the Earth from Newton to Laplace (1873)
- Elementary Treatise on Laplace's, Lame's and Bessel's
- Natural Philosophy for Beginners (1877).
An unfinished work, The History of the Theory of
, was edited and published posthumously in 1886 by
. Todhunter also published
keys to the problems in his textbooks on algebra
; and a biographical work on
(1876), in addition
to many original papers in scientific journals.
Some of these are available at Isaac Todhunter's publications at Google
- Obituary notices: Proc. Lond. Math.
Soc. (1884) and Proc. Roy. Soc.
37, p. xxvvii (1884)
- : A digital version of the above obituary is at the Gallica site.
- Obituary The Eagle, 1885, Cambridge,
vol. XIII, pages 94 – 98