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Portrait of John Butterworth (from a water-colour drawing).. Walter Tomlinson
T will be remembered that in the spring of last year I read a short paper, introductory to the present one,* in which I gave a rude sketch of the history of English Mathematicians down to the latter end of the last century. Dr. Hutton, in his Mathematical Dictionary published in 1795, gives an account of two hundred and sixty-two mathematicians and astronomers, the greatest the world had produced up to that time. Of these, to the credit of our country be it spoken, sixty-three were English, twelve Scotch, five Irish, and three Welsh; eighty-three altogether, or nearly one-third the whole number. As might naturally be expected from the inquisitive genius of the people, the next in number and excellence alike are the French with fifty-four, the Germans twenty-four, and the Italians twenty. There are thirtynine of the ancient Greeks, but these can hardly represent the measure of mathematical learning amongst that wonderful people, as the works of many were totally lost. Of all the other nations of the world taken together we have only forty-one, eight of whom were Swiss and eight Dutch; Spain gives one, Portugal two, and Hungary one.
Papers of the Manchester Literary Club, Vol. II., pp. 175-7. Art.: The Earlier English Mathematicians,
Of the forty English counties, only twenty-six have produced astronomers or mathematicians of any eminence. At the head of these stands Yorkshire with seven, London stands for eight, but it included two counties, Middlesex and Essex. The other counties are Kent four, Leicester four, Somerset three, Wilts three, Hants three, Norfolk three, Northampton three, and Lincoln three; Herts, Gloucester, Worcester, Chester, Bucks, and Oxford, each two; and Notts, Berks, Sussex, Devon, Derby, Durham, Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Lancaster, each one. Horrox is the one whose name stands for Lancaster.
These men, whom Dr. Hutton thought worthy of a place in his Dictionary, were of course in some respects a different class of men from those whose names I have to mention to-night; they were men, many of them, of the most transcendent geniusthe Homers, the Virgils, the Shaksperes of Science-and all of them original and inventive, and possessed of the greatest acquirements in learning. Nearly everyone of their names stands for some discovery or great and permanent advance in the pathway of knowledge, and their works are the classics of scientific literature. But if less massive in their genius and less exalted in aspiration, the men of whom I have to speak were of kindred spirit. Their acquirements in knowledge were disinterested, and they loved and cultivated science for its own sake. They were, if I may so speak, "the hewers of wood and drawers of water" to the learned men of the last and the present generation. They created a literature of their own, which the most accomplished scientists did not disdain to read and were often proud to contribute to. The greatest scientific men of the last century and the beginning of this, first tried their "prentice hand" in it, and many of them stuck to it to the end of their lives. It is full of the richest elements of mathematical truth, and there is not a standard work on Mathematics, either in the universities or public schools of to-day, that is not more or less indebted for principles, examples, and illustrations, to the literature to which I am referring. No literature could be poor that was the product of Thomas Simpson, Dr. Maskelyne, John Landen, William Herschel, William Emerson, Dr. Hutton, W. G. Horner, and Dr. Gregory. Of course I am referring to the mathematical periodicals of the last and the first half of this century, at once the nurseries and repositories of
the highest mathematical studies of the time. Everyone who knows anything about and cares for such things, cannot but deplore the discontinuance and almost utter extinction of these journals, which of course implies the decay and ultimate destruction of that spirit and fine taste for mathematical culture which gave birth to them. In a few observations at the end of my former paper, Mr. H. H. Howorth objected to the statement that a discontinuance of mathematical journals implied any decline in the study, spoke disparagingly of the Diaries, and said the science had become more concentrated and profound in the hands of men like Boole and Sylvester. With proper respect and deference to these men, mathematicians do not think so. Let us hear what one of the two or three greatest living Lancashire mathematicians has to say upon this point. The Rev. Mr. Kirkman, of Croft Rectory, near Warrington, at the conclusion of a very able paper on Line-Coördinates in the Ladies' Diary for 1850, writes as follows:
I suppose it is one of the things of which we all feel proud, as the most practical nation in the world, that mathematical works hardly ever make their appearance amongst us, except such as are specially intended for schoolboys and undergraduates. These are the reading and purchasing public for books on pure science in England. We feel flattered to reflect that all the universities of the three kingdoms, the naval and military colleges, the establishments and societies for the cultivation of learning celestial and terrestrial, each with its scientific staff, and an immense offspring of prize-men and honour-men of all kinds, are yet unable to create a reading public sufficient to support a small mathematical periodical. There is, perhaps, no fairer test of the extent to which a science is cultivated in a country than the number and circulation of the journals devoted to original matter thereon. Now, if it be true, as I have been informed, that The Mathematician is discontinued, the number of our English journals is one. The Cambridge and Dublin Mathematical Journal, whose eighteen annual octavo sheets, in addition to the pages of the imperish. able Diary, form the vent of the country's talent. Nor will it create the least surprise if this, too, were to become extinct; for it cannot live long by the favour of a few scores (hundreds, I fear, is hardly the right word) of subscribers at home and abroad. The natural consequence of this state of things is, that our best writers, who are equal to any in Europe, are continually sending their contributions to foreign journals. Yet, if any member of the scientific committees and societies of our Manchesters and Liverpools were to propose that they should place on their shelves, for use or ornament, the journals of Crelle or Lionville, which are rich in the contributions of British analysts, or even our own Cambridge and Dublin Mathematical Journal, inferior to those only in extent and cultivation, he would create no small merriment among his fellow