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Robert Woodhouse

robert woodhouse, robert woodhouse md
Robert Woodhouse FRS 28 April 1773 – 23 December 1827 was an English mathematician


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Bibliography
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links


He was born at Norwich, the son of Robert Woodhouse, linen draper, and educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, BA 1795 of which society he was subsequently a fellow[1][2] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in December 1802[3]

His earliest work, entitled the Principles of Analytical Calculation, was published at Cambridge in 1803 In this he explained the differential notation and strongly pressed the employment of it; but he severely criticised the methods used by continental writers, and their constant assumption of non-evident principles[2]

In 1809 Woodhouse published a textbook covering planar trigonometry and spherical trigonometry and the next year a historical treatise on the calculus of variations and isoperimetrical problems He next produced an astronomy; of which the first book usually bound in two volumes, on practical and descriptive astronomy, was issued in 1812, and the second book, containing an account of the treatment of physical astronomy by Pierre-Simon Laplace and other continental writers, was issued in 1818

He became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1820, and subsequently the Plumian professor in the university[4] As Plumian Professor he was responsible for installing and adjusting the transit instruments and clocks at the Cambridge Observatory[5] He held that position until his death in 1827

A man like Woodhouse, of scrupulous honour, universally respected, a trained logician, and with a caustic wit, was well fitted to introduce a new system; and the fact that when he first called attention to the continental analysis he exposed the unsoundness of some of the usual methods of establishing it, more like an opponent than a partisan, was as politic as it was honest Woodhouse did not exercise much influence on the majority of his contemporaries, and the movement might have died away for the time being if it had not been for the advocacy of George Peacock, Charles Babbage, and John Herschel, who formed the Analytical Society, with the object of advocating the general use in the university of analytical methods and of the differential notation

On his death in Cambridge he was buried in Caius College Chapel


  • 1803: Principles of Analytical Calculation, links from HathiTrust
  • 1809: A Treatise on Plane and Spherical Trigonometry 5th edition 1827
  • 1810: A Treatise on Isoperimetric Problems and the Calculus of Variations
  • 1818: An Elementary Treatise on Physical Astronomy, volume 1
  • 1818: An Elementary Treatise on Astronomy, volume 2
  • 1821: A Treatise on Astronomy, Theoretical and Practical


  1. ^ "Robert Woodhouse WDHS790R" A Cambridge Alumni Database University of Cambridge 
  2. ^ a b Harvey W Becher 1980 "Woodhouse, Babbage, Peacock and Modern Algebra", Historia Mathematica 74: 389–400
  3. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue" Royal Society Retrieved 1 November 2010 [permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Guicciardini, Niccolò 1989 "Robert Woodhouse" The Development of Newtonian Calculus in Britain 1700–1800 New York: Cambridge University Press pp 126–131 ISBN 0-521-36466-3 
  5. ^ Woodhouse, R Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Vol115 1825 pp418–428
This article is based on a public domain article from Rouse History of Mathematics

External links

  • O'Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F, "Robert Woodhouse", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews 
  • Media related to Robert Woodhouse mathematician at Wikimedia Commons

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