William Rowan Hamilton

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Sir William Rowan Hamilton (4 August 1805 – 2 September 1865) was an Irish physicist, astronomer, and mathematician, who made important contributions to classical mechanics, optics, and algebra. His studies of mechanical and optical systems led him to discover new mathematical concepts and techniques. His greatest contribution is perhaps the reformulation of Newtonian mechanics, now called Hamiltonian mechanics. This work has proven central to the modern study of classical field theories such as electromagnetism, and to the development of quantum mechanics. In mathematics, he is perhaps best known as the inventor of quaternions. Hamilton is said to have shown immense talent at a very early age, prompting astronomer Bishop Dr. John Brinkley to remark in 1823 of Hamilton at the age of eighteen: “This young man, I do not say will be, but is, the first mathematician of his age.”

Contents

Life

William Rowan Hamilton's scientific career included the study of geometrical optics, classical mechanics, adaptation of dynamic methods in optical systems, applying quaternion and vector methods to problems in mechanics and in geometry, development of theories of conjugate algebraic couple functions (in which complex numbers are constructed as ordered pairs of real numbers), solvability of polynomial equations and general quintic polynomial solvable by radicals, the analysis on Fluctuating Functions (and the ideas from Fourier analysis), linear operators on quaternions and proving a result for linear operators on the space of quaternions (which is a special case of the general theorem which today is known as the Cayley–Hamilton Theorem). Hamilton also invented "Icosian Calculus", which he used to investigate closed edge paths on a dodecahedron that visit each vertex exactly once.

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