Sir William Rowan Hamilton

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Sir William Hamiltons Biography

Hamilton was born at midnight on August 3/4, 1805 in Dublin. Because of that sometimes there is some confusion over his birthdate. He was the son of Archibald Hamilton, a solicitor, but was put up for adoption. Archibald Hamilton did not have a university education and it is thought that Hamilton's genius came from his mother, Sarah Hutton. William Hamilton lived with his uncle Rev. James Hamilton.

Hamilton is said to be a genius at a very early age. He learned many languages showing virtually no effort. By the age of five, William Hamilton started learning Latin and Greek, by the age of seven he was already speaking Hebrew. His uncle Rev. James Hamilton (a linguist) thaught him, and Hamilton learned 15 languages when he turned 13 years old. Besides classical and modern European languages he was speaking Languages like Sanskrit, Malay, Persian, Arabic and Hindustani. Later he was reading Persian and Arabic books for relaxation.

His talents in natural sciences emerged at a very early age. At the age of ten while exercising Latin he read a Latin copy of Euclid, his introduction in Geometry. Hamilton's started studying Mathematics at 13 when he studied Clairaut's Algebra (he read this in French, where he was fluent in French by this time).

In 1822 at the age of 17, he was finding a mistake in Laplace's Mechanique C'eleste. This brings him to the attention of Dr. John Brinkley, Astronomer Royal of Ireland and the bishop of Cloyne who said 1823 about Hamilton: “This young man, I do not say will be, but is, the first mathematician of his age.”

Hamilton entered Trinity College, Dublin at the age of 18. He joined a school of mathematicians which was associated whith the Trinity College, studying classics and science. 1827 he was nominated as Professor of Astronomy.

He kept his faculties unabated until his death. The last six years of his life was dedicated to the works on “Elements of Quaternions” which was finished few days before he died. Hamilton was an alcoholic for the last third of his life. He died on 2nd of September 1865 from a severe attack of gout just shortly after receiving the news that he had been elected the first foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Hamilton is accredited as one of Ireland's famous scientists. Today he and his work is becoming more and more acknowledged.