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Poetry of Mathematicians - Cayley
Mathematician - ARTHUR CAYLEY
Cayley had written on space of n-dimensions, and the main point in
the address is derived from the artist’s business of depicting on a plane what
exists in space:
O wretched race of men, to space confined!
What honor can ye pay to him whose mind
To that which lies beyond hath penetrated?
The symbols he hath formed shall sound his praise,
And lead him on through unimagined ways
To conquests new, in worlds not yet created.
First, ye Determinants, in ordered row
And massive column ranged, before him go,
To form a phalanx for his safe protection.
Ye powers of the nth root of −1!
Around his head in endless cycles run,
As unembodied spirits of direction.
And you, ye undevelopable scrolls!
Above the host where your emblazoned rolls,
Ruled for the record of his bright inventions.
Ye cubic surfaces! by threes and nines
Draw round his camp your seven and twenty lines
The seal of Solomon in three dimensions.
March on, symbolic host! with step sublime,
Up to the flaming bounds of Space and Time!
There pause, until by Dickenson depicted
In two dimensions, we the form may trace
Of him whose soul, too large for vulgar space,
In n dimensions flourished unrestricted.
The verses refer to the subjects investigated in several of Cayley’s most elaborate
memoirs; such as, Chapters on the Analytical Geometry of n-dimensions;
On the theory of Determinants; Memoir on the theory of Matrices; Memoirs on
skew surfaces, otherwise Scrolls; On the delineation of a Cubic Scroll, etc.
Most noted for:
*Work in developing the algebra of matrices
*Work in non-euclidean geometry and n-dimensional geometry
*Publishing over 900 papers and notes
It was one of Cayley's teachers that encouraged his father to allow him to study mathematics instead of going into the family business as a merchant. Although he won a fellowship at Cambridge, he needed money to live. So, he became a lawyer. After 14 years of practicing law, he became a Sadleirian Professor of Pure Mathematics at Cambridge in 1863. Of course, he took a significant decrease in his salary, but he was happy to be able to devote all of his time to mathematics.
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