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Sylvester

mathematics, university and professor

SYLVESTER, James Joseph, English mathematician: b. London, 3 Sept. 1814; d. there, 15 March 1897. He was of Jewish parentage and was educated at Cambridge Uni versity, where, however, his religion prevented his taking his degree until after the passing of the Tests Act in 1872; but he took his degree at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1841. He became professor of natural history at the University of London in 1837; and in 1841 was called to the chair of mathematics at the University of Virginia. He remained there but a short time, his frank expression of his opinion of the slav ery question making his stay impracticable. He was connected with a firm of actuaries in Lon don in 1845-55 meantime writing brilliantly on I mathematics. In 1855-70 he was professor of mathematics at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In 1877-83 he was professor of mathematics at the newly-established Johns Hopkins University; and while in America founded and was the first editor of the Ameri can Journal of Mathematics. He was called in 1883 to the Savilian chair of geometry at Oxford University and retained it until his death, although he was not on active duty from 1892, when his sight failed. From 1870 he was

recognized as one of the leading mathematicians of the world. He published a vast amount of original work, chiefly in the form of contribu tions to scientific periodicals and to learned societies. His researches dealt principally with algebraic forms, although he also made con tributions to analytical and pure geometry, mechanics, optics and astronomy. He exerted a profound influence upon the study of higher mathematics in America as well as in Europe, and his genius as an inventor of mathematics was accompanied by remarkable facility in in structing and inspiring his students. He was also an able linguist and was deeply interested in verse makisg, although he failed to make a name in that field. He wrote in this connec tion