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The Mathematical Papers of Sir William Rowan Hamilton


THIS is the second of the projected four volumes of the mathematical papers of Sir William Rowan Hamilton. The first volume, published in 1931, contained papers on geometrical optics, and the present volume is mainly devoted to dynamics, but includes also some papers on Hamilton's calculus of principal relations, which, as the editors state in the preface, is a natural and obvious extension of his method of the principal function. These volumes differ from most collections of the papers of a mathematician in the very large proportion of hitherto unpublished matter which they contain. Thus in the volume under review we find that the papers here reprinted comprise the two important papers on “General Method in Dynamics” from the Transactions of the Royal Society, of 1834–35, and in addition only thirty-five pages of British Association Reports on Hamilton's work and brief notes on such subjects as the dynamics of light, the composition of forces and the hodograph, while the matter now printed for the first time, a hundred years after it was written, runs to more than 460 pages. With a few minor exceptions the whole of the work was written between 1833 and 1839, the characteristic function having first been introduced in the paper on “Theory of Systems of Rays” published in 1827. The editors have told us that the Library at Trinity College, Dublin, contains more than two hundred volumes of Hamilton's notebooks in addition to unbound manuscripts. The selection of what is most suitable for publication and the editing of the papers can be no easy task, and we can only express our admiration for the skill with which the great work is being accomplished.

The Mathematical Papers of Sir William Rowan Hamilton

Vol. 2: Dynamics. Edited for the Royal Irish Academy by Prof. A. W. Conway Dr. A. J. McConnell. (Cunningham Memoir No. 14.) Pp. xvi + 656. (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1940.) 70s. net.

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RAMSEY, A. The Mathematical Papers of Sir William Rowan Hamilton. Nature 146, 180–181 (1940).

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