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The state of science in Hamilton’s time.
A Victorian Marriage
As pdf or epub, background information, and further publications.
Catherine Disney
Background information, and the sketch about her as pdf or epub.
An essay and a sketch
Read both books in BookReader.
Photos of people in Hamilton’s biography.
Anything not at home in the other pages, from nineteenth century Dublin and Quantum mechanics to Mars and the Universe.
Clean the Earth
We may have some time left, but only if we act now.

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The steam locomotive Hibernia.
The Dublin and Kingstown Railway was Ireland's first railway,
the locomotive depicted here was built in 1834.
Copied from the Dublin Penny Journal of September 1834.

Entrance page

to a website about the private life of
Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865)
the Irish mathematician whose name lives on in the ‘Hamiltonian’.

Hamilton did not make one major discovery but two; his characteristic function for the geometry of light, which he extended to dynamics, leading to what is now Hamiltonian mechanics, and the quaternions which played an important part in the emergence of vector analysis. The quaternions themselves having been out of sight for a long time, they can now be found everywhere, from your phone up to the rovers on Mars.

The engraving above, of the steam locomotive Hibernia, shows the state of science a year after Hamilton’s marriage, and two years after the publication of the Third Supplement to an Essay on the Theory of Systems of Rays,* which would lead to Hamiltonian mechanics.

Thus having made his discoveries in a time in which there were no telephones and radios yet, people walked, and travelled by horse, carriage, steam train and steamship, Hamilton’s son reported that “Sir W.” was indifferent to contemporary fame, “arising from his conviction that his belonged to a future age entirely.” He was right, yet little could he know that his work had to wait until quantum mechancis and the dawn of computers before it would start to blossom.

His work being very widely acknowledged now, it is time to brush up his reputation and show him as the happily married genius he was.

* For short descriptions of the original essay and the three supplements see Theory of Systems of Rays.

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