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George Gabriel Stokes (1819--1903) --- Historical Sketch

George Gabriel Stokes was born in mid-August of 1819 in County Sligo in the northwestern part of Ireland, the youngest of six children, his father a minister and his mother a minister's daughter.

At age 13, having received some educational instruction by his father and the clerk in his father's parish, George left for Dublin to attend school for three years while living with an uncle. In this school, he became noted for his attraction to geometry. Three years later, his father having died, George went to Bristol, in western England, to attend college. There his talent for mathematics was reflected by the prizes he won in the subject.

At age 18, he entered Pembroke College in Cambridge University. After four years at Cambridge, Stokes graduated at the top of his class, with mathematics as his major field of study. He was then awarded a fellowship that allowed him to begin research in the mathematics of the motion of fluids. (It is by historical coincidence that he was attracted to this topic by some work of George Green, whose Green's Theorem is adjacent to Stokes' Theorem in Section 16.5.) He also worked on the physics of light and on problems in geodesy.

In 1849, Stokes was awarded the singular honor of being appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, and two years later, he was elected to the Royal Society. A year after that, he was awarded the Rumsford Medal of the Royal Society. Then in another two years, he became Secretary of the Royal Society, a position he held until becoming President of the Royal Society in 1885. He continued as President until 1890, and received the Society's Copley Medal in 1893. He was also President of the Victoria Institute from 1896 until he died in 1903, having been Master of Pembroke College in the last year of his life.


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Historical sketch: George Green

Historical sketches

Stokes' theorem


Copyright © 2006 Darel Hardy, Fred Richman, Carol Walker, Robert Wisner. All rights reserved. Except upon the express prior permission in writing, from the authors, no part of this work may be reproduced, transcribed, stored electronically, or transmitted in any form by any method.

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