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British Industrial History

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James Joseph Sylvester

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James Joseph Sylvester (1814-1897) F.R.S., Professor of Geometry in the University of Oxford.

1838 J. J. Sylvester, of University College, Professor of Natural Philosophy, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1897 Obituary [2]

Professor Sylvester was the son of Abraham Joseph Sylvester, and was born in London in 1814. From the Royal Institution, Liverpool, he went to St. John's College, Cambridge, and was Second Wrangler in 1837. As a Jew he could not take his degree nor compete for the Smith's prizes, still less to obtain a Fellowship. He entered at the Inner Temple, and was called to the Bar in 1850 ; but he mainly devoted himself to teaching.

He was Professor of Natural Philosophy at University College, London, 1837- 1 14, then Professor of Mathematics at the University of Virginia. Returning to England, he gave up mathematics for a time, and was on the point of taking up the profession of an accountant, when, says the Ti111u, by Lord Brougham's influence he was made in 1855 Professor at the Military Academy, Woolwich. Fifteen years later he retired, but in 1877, on the foundation of Johns Hop kine University, Baltimore, be to America as the first Professor of Mathematics in the now University. As Professor and as editor of the American Journal of he practically founded the study of higher in the United States. In 1883, on the death of Henry Smith, he was elected Savilian Professor of Pure Geometry in Oxford, and became a Fellow of New College, where be lived a loyal and devoted member of William of Wykeham's foundation.

In Oxford be produced his theory of recipricants, and by the force of his teaching and the foundation of a mathematical society be did much for his subject. On the failure of his eyesight and general health in 1893 he retired from active duty to London.



1897. His death took place at his residence in Mayfair, aged 82.

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