Robert Simson (14 October 1687 – 1 October 1768) was a British mathematician and
professor of
mathematics.
The eldest
son of John Simson of Kirktonhall, West Kilbride in Ayrshire, Robert
Simson was intended for the Church, but the bent of his mind was
towards mathematics. He was educated at the University of
Glasgow and graduated MA.
When the
prospect opened of his succeeding to the mathematical chair at the
University of
Glasgow, Simson proceeded to London for further
study. After a year in London, he returned to Glasgow and,
in 1711, was appointed by the university to the professorship of
mathematics, an office which he retained until 1761.
Simson's contributions to mathematical knowledge took the form of
critical editions and commentaries on the works of the ancient
geometers. The first of his published
writings is a paper in the
Philosophical Transactions
(1723, vol. xl. p. 330) on
Euclid's
Porisms.
Then followed
Sectionum conicarum libri V. (Edinburgh,
1735), a second edition of which, with additions, appeared in 1750.
The first three books of this
treatise were
translated into English and, several times, printed as
The
Elements of the Conic Sections.
In 1749, was published
Apollonii Pergaei locorum planorum libri
II., a restoration of
Apollonius's lost treatise, founded on
the
lemma given in the seventh
book of
Pappus's
Mathematical Collection.
In 1756, appeared, both in
Latin and in
English, the first edition of his
Euclid's Elements. This work, which
contained only the first six and the eleventh and twelfth books,
and to which, in its English version, he added the
Data in
1762, was for long the standard text of Euclid in England.
After Simson's death, restorations of Apollonius's treatise
De
section determinata and of Euclid's treatise
De
Porismatibus were printed for private circulation in 1776, at
the expense of
Earl Stanhope, in a
volume with the title
Roberti Simson opera quaedam
reliqua. The volume contains also dissertations on
Logarithms and on the
Limits
of Quantities and Ratios, and a few problems illustrating the
ancient geometrical analysis.
The
pedal line of a
triangle is sometimes called the "Simson line"
after him.
External links
Authorities
- W Trail, Life and Writings of Robert Simson
(1812)
- C Hutton, Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary
(1815).