Quotations by William Rowan Hamilton


I regard it as an inelegance, or imperfection, in quaternions, or rather in the state to which it has been hitherto unfolded, whenever it becomes or seems to become necessary to have recourse to x, y, z, etc..
Quoted in a letter from Tait to Cayley.

On earth there is nothing great but man; in man there is nothing great but mind.
Lectures on Metaphysics.

Time is said to have only one dimension, and space to have three dimensions. ... The mathematical quaternion partakes of both these elements; in technical language it may be said to be "time plus space", or "space plus time": and in this sense it has, or at least involves a reference to, four dimensions.
And how the One of Time, of Space the Three,
Might in the Chain of Symbols girdled be.
Quoted in R P Graves, Life of Sir William Rowan Hamilton

Who would not rather have the fame of Archimedes than that of his conqueror Marcellus?
Quoted in H Eves Mathematical Circles Revisited (Boston 1971).

[This is a paraphrase of something Cicero wrote in 75BC after his description of finding the tomb of Archimedes:
"Who in all the world, who enjoys merely some degree of communion with the Muses, ... is there who would not choose to be the mathematician rather than the tyrant?"
In the context, the tyrant is Marcellus.]


JOC/EFR February 2006

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