Person: Crofton, Morgan William
Morgan Crofton was an Irish mathematician who contributed to the field of geometric probability theory.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Crofton entered Trinity College, Dublin where he studied mathematics.
- One would not expect this to be a problem for Crofton, who was an Anglican, but it seems that by this time he was considering changing from being an Anglican to being a Roman Catholic.
- In 1849 Crofton was appointed as Professor of Natural Philosophy at Queen's College, Galway, five years after it was founded (it later became University College, Galway).
- Certainly his conversion to the Catholic Church was closely connected with John Henry Newman and so, to understand Crofton's actions, we should say a few words about Newman.
- Like Crofton, Newman began as an Anglican but he had held a leading role in the Oxford Movement in the Church of England.
- Newman resigned as an Anglican priest in 1843, about the time Crofton was beginning his undergraduate career at Trinity College, Dublin, and was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1845.
- Crofton's entry into the Catholic Church must have come at around the time that he resigned his Chair of Natural Philosophy at University College, Galway.
- After this Crofton went to France where he taught at a number of different educational institutions run by the Jesuits.
- Clearly Sylvester was impressed with Crofton's mathematical talents for he recommended him for an appointment as an instructor at the Royal Military Academy.
- Crofton was appointed to fill the vacancy in 1870 and he held the position of Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich until 1884.
- The army required applied mathematics to be taught in its courses at Woolwich to provide the necessary skills for the army personnel and Crofton taught there courses on mechanics and engineering mathematics.
- This was an exciting new venture and Crofton joined the mathematics staff of University College, Dublin after he retired in 1884 but, since he continued to live in London, he cannot have taught courses at the newly revived establishment.
- He did discuss mathematical questions there with John Casey, for when Casey published his book A treatise on the analytic geometry of the point, line, circle and conic section he both acknowledged Crofton's help with the work and also included a number of exercises which he explicitly acknowledged were due to Crofton.
- It is possible that these were examination questions which Crofton composed and that his collaboration with Casey was closely related to his role in examinations.
- Crofton wrote most of his papers on pure mathematics, publishing on geometry and the operator calculus.
- We know from comments by Sylvester that he and Crofton discussed Buffon's needle in the 1860s at Woolwich.
- Crofton wrote On the theory of local probability in 1868 which he discussed Buffon's needle.
- Crofton's lengthy article Probability which appeared in 1885 is still worth reading and is one of many outstanding articles in what many consider to be the greatest encyclopaedia ever produced.
- In 1895 Crofton retired from his position at University College, Dublin.
Born 27 June 1826, Dublin, Ireland. Died 13 May 1915, Brighton, Sussex, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
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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