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The Influence of Mathematics on the Progress of Physics 1


    IN discussing the value of a given study, a lecturer is by common consent allowed—sometimes even in private duty bound—to exaggerate the importance of his subject, and to present it to his audience enlarged, as it were, through the magnifying power of a projecting lens, so that the details with which he has necessarily to deal may be brought into more prominent view. In au introductory lecture such as it is my duty to give to-day, the speaker need the less feel any scruples in following the usual custom, as different subjects are treated of in successive years, and the hearer may, after the lapse of a short cycle, strike a pretty fair balance between the various branches which have successively been brought before him. But although I might have felt tempted to-day to insist on the advantages of Applied Mathematics as a separate subject not only worthy of study, but second to none in interest and importance, and though I feel no doubt you would have accorded to me the indulgence which everybody requires who endeavours to lay an abnormal stress on the merits of a single branch of human knowledge, I prefer to found the claims of the subject which I have the honour to represent in this college, not so much on its intrinsic value as on the influence it has had on the progress of other sciences. For no subject can stand by itself, and the utility of each must be measured by the part it takes in the play of the acting and reacting forces which weave together all sciences into a common web.


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      "For my part it is my pride and pleasure, so far as I am able, to supersede the necessity of experiments."–Peacock's "Life of Young," p. 477 Abstract of letter by Young.

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