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William Spottiswoode

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1882. Durham's governor for electric light engines.

William Spottiswoode (1825-1882), mathematician, physicist and partner in Eyre and Spottiswoode

1825 Born son of Andrew Spottiswoode; a younger brother was George Andrew Spottiswoode

c.1846 His father lost his capital through financial speculation; William took over as Queen's printer[1]

1851 Andrew Spottiswoode 64, printer, employing 171 and 49 boys at New Square and 210 men, women and boys at Queen's House and other, lived in Westminster with Mary Spottiswoode 50, Nora Spottiswoode 29, Augusta Spottiswoode 27, William Spottiswoode 26, George A Spottiswoode 23[2]

1861 Her Majety's Printer, married Eliza Taylor Arbuthnot in Bexley[3]

1864 Birth of first son William Hugh Spottiswoode[4]

1871 William Spottiswood 46, master printer, lived in Westminster with Eliza S Spottiswood 30, William H Spottiswood 6, Cyril A Spottiswood 3[5]

1882 Died in Middlesex



1883 Obituary [6]

WILLIAM SPOTTISWOODE, M.A., LL.D., Pres. R.S., son of Andrew Spottiswoode, the printer, was born in London on the 11th of January, 1825. He belonged to an old Scottish family, many members of which achieved distinction.

He was educated successively at a school at Laleham, at Eton, and at Harrow where he remained three years ; whence, in 1842, he proceeded to Balliol College, Oxford, and in 1845 gained a first class in mathematics.

Although on quitting college he undertook the active management of the business of the Queen’s printers, which he never relinquished, the bent of his mind led mainly to the cultivation of mathematics and physics. His earliest work appeared in the shape of five quarto pamphlets, with the title ‘Meditationes Analyticae' 1847.

His subsequent numerous original mathematical investigations, in the “Philosophical Magazine,” ‘Cambridge and Dublin Mathematical Journal,” “Quarterly Journal of Mathematics,” and many other scientific periodicals, gave him a world-wide reputation. In the field of physics his researches on the “Polarization of Light” may be mentioned.

One of the chief factors in raising him to so high a position in science was his exceptional qualifications as an organizer. He was Treasurer of the British Association from 1861 to 1874, of the Royal Institution from 1865 to 1873, and of the Royal Society from 1871 to 1878. He was chosen Honorary Secretary to the Royal Institution in 1871 ; was President of the London Mathematical Society, 1870 to 1872, and of the British Association 1878; and was elected Correspondent of the Institut of the Academie des Sciences in 1876.

He was elected an Honorary Member of this Institution on the 6th of March, 1883, because, in the words of the nomination paper, “By his attainments as a mathematician-as evidenced by numerous Papers presented to the Royal, the Royal Astronomical, and other scientific societies, and by his position as President of the Royal Society of London since the 30th of November, 1878-he has materially aided the progress of some of those sciences on which the practice of Civil Engineering chiefly depends.” He died on the 27th of June following, after an illness of three weeks, from typhoid fever.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Biography of William Spottiswoode, ODNB
  2. 1851 census
  3. Parish records
  4. BMD
  5. 1871 census
  6. 1883 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries