Person: Fitzgerald, George Francis
George FitzGerald was a Irish physicist best known for the FitzGerald Contraction -- a way of explaining special relativity.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- However, this suggestion by FitzGerald, as we shall see below, was not in the area in which he undertook most of his research, and he would certainly not have rated this his greatest contribution.
- George FitzGerald's parents were William FitzGerald and Anne Frances Stoney.
- William and Anne had three sons, George being the middle of the three.
- It is doubtful whether Miss Boole realised what enormous potential her pupil George had, for although he showed himself to be an excellent student of arithmetic and algebra, he was no better than an average pupil at languages and had rather a poor verbal memory.
- However, when the tutoring progressed to a study of Euclid's Elements then George showed himself very able indeed, and he also exhibited a great inventiveness for mechanical constructions, having great dexterity.
- She noticed one remarkable talent in her pupil George, that was his skill as an observer.
- FitzGerald certainly showed that he had acquired the ability to learn from observation, experiment and measurement.
- It was not an undergraduate career devoted entirely to study, however, for FitzGerald played a full part in literary clubs and social clubs.
- The aim of FitzGerald was now to win a Trinity College Fellowship but at this time these were few and far between.
- FitzGerald immediately saw Maxwell's work as providing the framework for further development and he began to work on pushing forward the theory.
- It is worth noting that FitzGerald's reaction to Maxwell's fundamental paper was not that of most scientists.
- It is a tribute to FitzGerald's insight as a scientist that he saw clearly from the beginning the importance of Electricity and Magnetism.
- Maxwell's theory was for many years, in the words of Heaviside, "considerably underdeveloped and little understood" but a few others were to see it in the same light as FitzGerald including Heaviside, Hertz and Lorentz.
- FitzGerald would exchange ideas over the following years with all three of these scientists.
- During the six years he spent working for the Fellowship, FitzGerald also studied metaphysics, a topic which he had not formally studied as an undergraduate, and he was particularly attracted to Berkeley's philosophy.
- In 1881 John R Leslie, the professor of natural philosophy at Dublin, died and FitzGerald succeeded him to the Erasmus Smith Chair of Natural and Experimental Philosophy.
- One of FitzGerald's long running battles at Trinity College Dublin was to increase the amount of teaching of experimental physics.
- However, practical applications are built on theoretical foundations and FitzGerald fully understood this.
- We should also look at FitzGerald's idea of the purpose of a university since it was, like his other educational beliefs, the driving force in how he carried out his professorial duties.
- As can be seen from the quotations we have given from FitzGerald's writing, his interest in education went well beyond the narrow confines of his own department.
- It was through his personal friendship with Jellett, and also their joint scientific studies, that FitzGerald got to know Harriette.
- This was in 1899 when the prestigious award was made to FitzGerald for his contributions to theoretical physics, especially to optics and electrodynamics.
- We should now examine the research for which FitzGerald received these honours.
- Beginning in 1876, before he obtained his Fellowship, FitzGerald began to publish the results of his research.
- Maxwell, in reviewing the paper, noted that FitzGerald was developing his ideas in much the same general direction as was Lorentz.
- At a meeting of the British Association in Southport in 1883, FitzGerald gave a lecture discussing electromagnetic theory.
- So FitzGerald, using his own studies of electrodynamics, suggested in 1883 that an oscillating electric current would produce electromagnetic waves.
- In 1888 FitzGerald addressed the Mathematical and Physical Section of the British Association in Bath as its President.
- After his appointment to the chair, FitzGerald had continued to produce many innovative ideas but no major theories.
- Although FitzGerald is modestly talking down his contributions in this quotation, the comment he made about himself is essentially correct.
- Finally we should examine the contribution for which FitzGerald is universally known today.
- In 1889, two years after the Michelson-Morley experiment, FitzGerald suggested that the shrinking of a body due to motion at speeds close to that of light would account for the result of that experiment.
- The FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction now plays an important role in relativity.
- Sadly FitzGerald died at the age of only 49 years.
- Maxwell, whose work had proved so fundamental for FitzGerald, had died at the age of 48 while Hertz died at the age of 36.
- In 1896 FitzGerald had reviewed the publication of Hertz's Miscellaneous Papers for Nature after Hertz's death.
- Four years later, in September 1900, FitzGerald began to complain of indigestion and began to have to be careful what he ate.
- to me, as to many others, FitzGerald was the truest of true friends; always interested, always sympathetic, always encouraging, whether the matter discussed was a personal one, or one connected with science or with education.
- having heard with profound sorrow of the premature death of the late Professor George Francis FitzGerald, desires to place on record its high appreciation of his brilliant qualities as a man, as a teacher, as an investigator, and as a leader of scientific thought ...
Born 3 August 1851, Kill-o'-the Grange, Monkstown, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Died 21 February 1901, Dublin, Ireland.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Ireland, Physics
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive