Augustus Edward Hough Love


Born: 17 April 1863 in Weston-super-Mare, England
Died: 5 June 1940 in Oxford, England


Augustus Love's mother was Emily Serle and his father was John Henry Love. John Love was a surgeon who, later in his career, took up an appointment as a police surgeon for the borough of Wolverhampton. Augustus had one older brother and two sisters.

Augustus was educated at Wolverhampton School, which he entered in 1874, but there he failed to show the brilliance which he was to show later in his life. This is not to say that he was a poor pupil, merely a mediocre one, but by his final year at school he was beginning to excel and in 1881 he won a scholarship to study at St John's College Cambridge. Entering St John's College in the following year, his first difficult decision was whether to take a degree in mathematics or in classics. He decided on mathematics and steadily improved his performance until he was elected scholar of the College in 1884 and, in the following year, he was Second Wrangler, meaning that he was ranked second among the First Class students in the Mathematical Tripos. He was elected to a fellowship at St John's College in 1886 and the following year won the first Smith's Prize. These years were highly productive ones during which Love produced outstanding work which led to his election to the Royal Society in 1894.

Love was appointed to the Sedleian chair of natural philosophy at Oxford in 1899. At this time he gave up his fellowship at St John's College but, in 1927 he was elected an honorary fellow at his old College of St John's. In the same year of 1927 he was also elected to a fellowship at Queen's College Oxford.

He worked on the mathematical theory of elasticity, on which he wrote the two volume work A Treatise on the Mathematical Theory of Elasticity (1892-93) described as [3]:-

... a monumental work of the utmost importance.

Milne, writing in the Dictionary of National Biography, is full of praise for this outstanding work:-

This is a fine, scholarly work, written with an historical sense; unhurried in style, massive in lecture, satisfying in fullness. It gives the general theory of stress and strain; of the conditions of equilibrium and stability of elastic plates, shells and solids; of torsion rods and the bending and vibration of beams; and the transmission of force. It remains a permanent monument to the academic aspect of elasticity. The treatment throughout is severely analytical, but it took form too early to incorporate the tensor calculus.

Love also did important work on waves. His work on the structure of the Earth in Some Problems in Geodynamics won for him the Adams Prize at Cambridge in 1911. An expert on spherical harmonics, Love discovered the existence of waves of short wavelength in the Earth's crust. The ideas in this work are still much used in geophysical research and the short wavelength earthquake waves he discovered are called 'Love waves'. Milne writes:-

Love investigated the possibility of the propagation of a purely distortional surface wave, and found that such could exist in a heterogeneous medium. In these waves the disturbance is purely horizontal (traverse to the direction of propagation), and the wave velocity, unlike that of 'Raleigh waves', depends upon wavelength. 'Love waves' have proved of considerable importance in the hands of later investigators, who have been able to infer, from their application to seismograms, indications of the thickness of the upper layer of the earth's crust.

He received many honours, the Royal Society awarded him its Royal Medal in 1909 and its Sylvester Medal in 1937, while the London Mathematical Society awarded him its De Morgan Medal in 1926. He also acted as secretary to the London Mathematical Society for fifteen years between 1895 and 1910, and was elected as president of the Society in 1912-13.

He is described in [3] as follows:-

He was a singularly modest man with a passion for accuracy and a gift for the lucid exposition of difficult and abstruse problems. His lectures to his students at Oxford were models of clear thinking and style.

Milne describes him as having:-

... a certain whimsicality of manner and appearance which endeared him to his many friends.

Love never married and, after the death of his father during the time that he held his fellowship at Cambridge, the younger of his two sisters kept house for him for the rest of his life.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

October 2003


MacTutor History of Mathematics
[http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Love.html]