Ireland's greatest mathematician, whose main achievement was in the subject of geometrical optics, for which he laid a theoretical foundation that came close to anticipating quantum theory. His work is also of great significance for general mechanics. He is perhaps best known in pure mathematics for his algebraic theory of complex numbers, the invention of quaternions and the exploitation of non-commutative algebra. A child prodigy, he could, it is claimed, speak 13 languages at the age of 13. He became Professor of Astronomy at Dublin and Royal Astronomer of Ireland at the age of 22.
Subjects: Arts and Humanities — Science and Mathematics.