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William Wallace (1768–1843)


A CENTURY ago, on April 28, 1843, William Wallace, the Scottish mathematician and astronomer, died at the age of seventy-four. Born at Dysart, on September 23, 1768, Wallace began life as a bookbinder's apprentice, but by private study and the assistance of Robison, Playfair and others gained a sound knowledge of mathematics, and at the age of twenty-six became an assistant master in Perth Academy. Nine years later, in 1803, he became an instructor at the Royal Military College, then housed at Great Marlow. In 1819 he was chosen to succeed Leslie as professor of mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, and he held this post until seventy years of age. On retirement he was awarded a Civil List pension of £300. He had many interests, wrote much for the “Encyclopaedia Britannica”, contributed to the Royal Astronomical Society and other bodies, and it was largely through his efforts that the small private observatory on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, was improved, the observatory being taken over by the Crown in 1834 when Thomas Henderson became the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland.

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William Wallace (1768–1843). Nature 151, 472 (1943).

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