Person: Green, George
George Green was an English mathematician best-known for Green's function and Green's theorems in potential theory.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Young George Green went to Robert Goodacre's school in 1801, the year after the riots.
- His only schooling, therefore, consisted of four terms but, despite the short time he spent there, since Robert Goodacre's was the best and most expensive school in Nottingham, George was taught much in the four terms.
- It is hard to see quite why Green became interested in mathematics at this age or, for that matter, whether he had access to mathematical works of any type.
- George Green Senior ran a successful bakery business and he was able to buy several houses in Nottingham.
- Certainly in 1823 Green joined the Nottingham Subscription Library which was situated in Bromley House.
- This was an important event in Green's scientific development as it gave him access to a few scientific works, but perhaps most importantly of all, it gave him access to the Transactions of the Royal Society of London.
- In this publication Green could read some of the latest mathematical work and it also reported on works published in other countries.
- Green studied mathematics on the top floor of the mill, entirely on his own.
- The years between 1823 and 1828 were not easy for Green, and certainly not the most conducive to study.
- Yet despite the difficult circumstances and despite his flimsy mathematical background, Green published one of the most important mathematical works of all time in 1828.
- Green coined the term 'potential' to denote the results obtained by adding the masses of all the particles of a system, each divided by its distance from a given point.
- The formula connecting surface and volume integrals, now known as Green's theorem, was introduced in the work, as was "Green's function" the concept now extensively used in the solution of partial differential equations.
- Sir Edward Bromhead was one of the subscribers to the Essay and he had written immediately to Green offering to send any further papers to the Royal Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh or the Cambridge Philosophical Society.
- Although Bromhead was not able to appreciate the high importance of Green's essay, he did realise that Green was a very good mathematician.
- Green took Bromhead's offer as mere politeness and did not respond until January 1830 when a friend persuaded him to follow up Bromhead's letter.
- For three years Green and Bromhead met at Thurlby Hall and during this time Green wrote three further papers.
- Bromhead was a good person for Green to become friendly with since he had good contacts with mathematicians at Cambridge.
- Bromhead's close friends there included Charles Babbage, John Herschel and George Peacock and he suggested to Green in April 1833 that he should consider studying mathematics at Cambridge.
- In June 1833 Bromhead went to Cambridge for a reunion and asked Green to go with him.
- However Green certainly did not realise the importance of his work.
- However Green took Bromhead's advice, left his mill and became an undergraduate at Cambridge in October 1833 at the age of 40.
- The mathematics examinations did not prove hard for Green, but the other topics such as Latin and Greek proved much harder for someone with only four terms of school education.
- Bishop Harvey Goodwin was an undergraduate at Cambridge during these years following Green's graduation.
- Green was elected to a Perse fellowship on 31 October 1839.
- Green clearly felt that his illness was very serious and in July 1840 he wrote a will in which he states that his health was poor but no details of the illness are given.
- Jane reported his death and was with Green when he died.
- Of course, Green never knew the importance of his mathematics.
- In a paper by Robert Murphy published in the Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Thomson noticed a reference to Green's Essay, although Murphy did not mention any of his other works published in that journal.
Born 14 July 1793, Sneinton, Nottingham, England. Died 31 May 1841, Sneinton, Nottingham, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive