Person: Hirst, Thomas Archer
Thomas Hirst was an English mathematician who worked in geometry. He is best known for his journal in which he recorded impressions of the many mathematicians he met.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Thomas Hirst had three elder siblings: John Henry (born 1826), Edward Oates (born 1827), and William Aked (born 1829).
- Thomas attended Wakefield primary school, then in 1841 he entered West Riding Proprietary School where he spent four years.
- He was ten years older than Hirst and he was to have a major influence on the direction which Hirst's life took.
- The first important influence which Tyndall had on Hirst was to encourage him, in addition to carrying out the many tasks relating to his job as a surveyor with the engineering firm, to continue with his education by reading on his own.
- Hirst read many works of literature, scientific texts and mathematics books such as Euclid's Elements, Hutton's Mathematics and Brewster's Life of Sir Isaac Newton.
- In February 1848 Hirst enrolled at the Halifax Mechanics Institute where he seemed for a while to be casting about seeking the subjects which interested him most.
- On 2 November 1850 Hirst enrolled at the University of Marburg to study mathematics, physics and chemistry.
- However Bunsen left Marburg in the spring of 1851 and after this Hirst's interests turned increasingly towards mathematics, sometimes to such an extent that he would ignore his other subjects.
- Leaving Marburg, Hirst travelled to Göttingen where he spent two weeks attending lectures.
- Eisenstein, whom he had hoped to visit, died the day before Hirst arrived.
- From Berlin Hirst made the journey to Paris where he spent two months attending lectures by Liouville and Lamé.
- Leaving the south of France they settled in Paris where Hirst continued with his mathematical researches, publishing two papers on which he had begun to work while at Göttingen.
- Hirst began to attend lectures again in Paris and his own researches into geometry progressed well.
- Hirst was appointed to the University College School in 1860.
- It was not the only event of importance for Hirst in 1864 for that year saw him elected to the Council of the Royal Society.
- The chair at this preliminary meeting was taken by Hirst and the date for the first meeting proper was set for 16 January 1865.
- Hirst was elected the first Vice-President of the Society and he served it for the next twenty years as a member of Council, the Treasurer of the Society and then as its President in 1872-74.
- Hirst was appointed as professor of physics at University College London in 1865 and he began lecturing in October of that year.
- As well as promoting science in general, Hirst worked in particular for the education of women.
- Hirst throughout his life always became unhappy when commitments prevented him from undertaking mathematical research.
- In January 1871 the Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching was founded and Hirst became its first president.
- In 1873 Hirst was appointed as Director of Studies at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
Born 22 April 1830, Heckmondwike, Yorkshire, England. Died 16 February 1892, London, 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