Person: Hamilton, William
William Hamilton was a Scottish philosopher whose approach to logic influenced Boole, De Morgan and others.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- William was educated at a variety of Scottish and English schools before entering the University of Glasgow when he was 12 years old to study Greek and Latin.
- In 1807, having been award a Snell exhibition, Hamilton matriculated in Balliol College, Oxford.
- On the personal side, Hamilton was aggressive and opinionated in discussion, and in a university that took the literary qualities of the classics more seriously than their philosophical qualities, his erudition may have seemed more awkward than attractive.
- Back in Edinburgh Hamilton joined the legal profession becoming an advocate.
- From this time on he dropped his middle name of Stirling and called himself Sir William Hamilton of Preston and Fingalton, baronet.
- In 1821 Hamilton was appointed professor of civil history at Edinburgh University but from 1829 he began to become known as a philosopher when he published an article in the Edinburgh Review which discussed Kant's ideas.
- In 1836 Hamilton became professor of logic and metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh, giving his inaugural lecture on 21 November.
- Hamilton was one of the first in a series of British logicians to create the algebra of logic and introduced the 'quantification of the predicate'.
- Boole, De Morgan and Venn followed him, but Hamilton helped begin this development and his work, although not of great depth, influenced Boole to produce a much more sophisticated system.
- Sadly, however, Hamilton claimed that De Morgan was guilty of plagiarism which was a ridiculous suggestion.
- One important aspect is that Hamilton stimulated an interest in metaphysics and introduced Kant and other German philosophers to the British public.
- Hamilton had a stroke in 1844 which left him partially paralysed.
Born 8 March 1788, Glasgow, Scotland. Died 6 May 1856, Edinburgh, Scotland.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Scotland, Physics
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