Willliam Rowan Hamilton
William Rowan Hamilton (1805 – 1865)
In 1863, The American National Academy of Sciences appointed an Irishman, Dublin-born William Rowan Hamilton, its first Foreign Associate: he was considered by them to be the greatest of living scientists.
William Rowan Hamiliton was born on the stroke of midnight on 3-4 August 1805. He was an infant prodigy, and he was unbeaten in every exam in both classics and science at Trinity College Dublin. Before he graduated he was appointed Royal Astronomer of Ireland, living at Dunsink Observatory. He made important contributions to theoretical physics and to mathematics.
Following a brilliant theoretical prediction of how light behaved when refracted in crystals, soon confirmed by experiment, he received a knighthood in 1835.
Hamilton quaternions (sets of vectors involving imaginary numbers), are regularly used in today’s computer graphics and in the guidance systems of space craft; and Hamilton graphs are in common use in modern discrete mathematics. As well as studying mathematics, he also wrote poetry, and was a friend of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.