Person: Bryan, George Hartley
George Bryan made important contributions to kinematics, thermodynamics and the mathematical theory of flight. He wrote two important monographs and a whole series of undergraduate texts intended for private study.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- James B Bryan, Eliza Bryan, Fanny Bryan and George Bryan are in the house with one servant, a parlour maid Ann Britton.
- On 10 April 1883 George Bryan was admitted as a pensioner at Peterhouse, Cambridge and began his study of the mathematical tripos.
- He had been taught by a number of famous mathematicians at Cambridge, including George Howard Darwin, James Glaisher, Walter Rouse Ball and Andrew Forsyth.
- Bryan published The waves on a rotating liquid spheroid of finite ellipticity in 1889.
- Over the next few years Bryan undertook a remarkable amount of work, essentially having two parallel careers, both of which on their own have an amazing output.
- Briggs and Bryan began to collaborate in writing textbooks for the University Correspondence College from about 1890, beginning with The elements of coordinate geometry (1891).
- But as well as writing texts with Briggs, Bryan was persuaded by Briggs to collaborate with others writing textbooks.
- C W C Barlow had been a fellow student of Bryan at Cambridge, being sixth Wrangler in the same tripos examination that Bryan was fifth Wrangler.
- Bryan and Barlow's first textbook for the University Correspondence College was Elementary Mathematical Astronomy, with examples and examination papers (1892).
- These books were very popular and so Bryan was not only involved in writing many new textbooks but also bringing out new editions of his previous books.
- Bryan's research output during this period was also exceptional; he published eight papers in 1889-90: The waves on a rotating liquid spheroid of finite ellipticity (1889), On the stability of elastic systems (1889), Application of the energy test to the collapse of a long thin pipe under external pressure (1889), On the Stability of a Plane Plate under Thrusts in its own Plane, with Applications to the "Buckling" of the Sides of a Ship (1890), On the beats in the vibrations of a revolving cylinder or bell (1890), An application of the method of images to the conduction of heat (1890), On the stability of a rotating spheroid of perfect liquid (1890), and On the deformation of twisted strips (1890).
- The British Association for the Advancement of Science was due to hold their 1891 meeting in Cardiff and Bryan was keen to offer the meeting a review of thermodynamics.
- Bryan had not published on thermodynamics so it is not obvious where his interest came from.
- At any rate, the British Association asked Bryan and Larmor to jointly report on thermodynamics to their 1891 meeting and they presented the "Report of a committee, consisting of Messrs J Larmor and G H Bryan, on the present state of out knowledge of Thermodynamics, specially with regard to the second law" to the meeting and "Part I.
- Drawn up by G H Bryan" was published in 1892 in the proceeding of the meeting.
- Boltzmann was delighted with the Report and after attending the Tercentenary Celebrations of Trinity College, Dublin in July 1892, he visited Bryan in Cambridge.
- At the British Association meeting in Oxford in 1894, Bryan presented the second part of the thermodynamics report, this time as the sole author.
- Boltzmann attended the meeting and eagerly took part in the discussion after Bryan's lecture.
- The Laws of Distribution of Energy and their Limitations (With an Appendix by Prof Ludwig Boltzmann.)" Bryan had undoubtedly made his presence known to the mathematics and physics world as a leading expert.
- There was another aspect of the British Association meeting in Oxford in 1894 which proved important in Bryan's career, namely discussions between those studying the theoretical possibilities of aeroplanes and the engineers who were actively experimenting with manned flight.
- Boltzmann was enthusiastic about the possibilities and Bryan soon became enthusiastic too.
- Bryan's leading role in kinetic theory led to his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1895.
- The British Association held their 1896 meeting in Liverpool and Bryan, now showing his theoretical interest in flight, presented the paper On the Sailing Flight of Birds.
- It looks at this stage as though Bryan was handling the extremely heavy load that he had chosen to put on himself.
- All teaching and examining mathematics was Bryan's responsibility with only one assistant to help him.
- When the committee duly reported in early 1899, Bryan was discomfited to learn that while blame was indeed attributed to his assistant, his own leadership was found wanting.
- Bryan suffered a nervous breakdown and withdrew to Cambridge for the Summer Term of 1899.
- Also Bryan does not appear to have been the sort to try to avoid confrontation and did not mince his words when handing out criticism.
- In 1899 Bryan received a major honour when he awarded the Gauss Medal of the German Mathematical Society.
- Sommerfeld visited Bryan in Bangor in September 1899 to make the invitation in person.
- Bryan wrote the 90-page article Allgemeine Grundlegung der Thermodynamik Ⓣ(General foundation of thermodynamics ) which was published in the 1st part of the 5th volume of the Encyclopaedia in 1903.
- Bryan became President of the Mathematical Association in 1907 and he set up the local branch of the Association in North Wales.
- In 1907 Bryan published the book Thermodynamics.
- In his later years Bryan found the ties of his university duties rather irksome and sought an opportunity for unfettered research; this was provided for him in 1917 by a three years' grant from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which time he devoted to the dynamics of aeroplane motion and to considering methods of dealing with the motion of compressible fluids.
Born 1 March 1864, Cambridge, England. Died 13 October 1928, Bordighera, Italy.
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive