George Gabriel Stokes: Life, Science and Faith

ISBN : 9780198822868

Mark McCartney; Andrew Whitaker; Alastair Wood
272 Pages
189 x 246 mm
Pub date
Jun 2019
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George Gabriel Stokes was one of the most important mathematical physicists of the 19th century. During his lifetime he made a wide range of contributions, notably in continuum mechanics, optics and mathematical analysis. His name is known to generations of scientists and engineers through the various physical laws and mathematical formulae named after him, such as the Navier-Stokes equations in fluid dynamics. Born in Ireland into a family of academics, clergymen and physicians, he became the longest serving Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge.

Impressive as his own scientific achievements were, he made an equally important contribution as a sounding board for his contemporaries, providing good judgement and mathematical rigour in his wide correspondence and during his 31 years as Secretary of the Royal Society where he played a major role in the direction of British science. Outside his own area he was a distinguished public servant and MP for Cambridge University. He was keenly interested in the relation between science and religion and wrote at length on their interaction. Stokes was a remarkable scientist who lived in an equally remarkable age of discovery and innovation.

This edited collection of essays brings together experts in mathematics, physics and the history of science to cover the many facets of Stokes's life in a scholarly but accessible way to mark the bicentenary of his birth.


1 Alistair Wood: Introductory biography
2 Michael Sandford: The Stokes family in Ireland and Cambridge
3 June Barrow-Green: Stokes of Pembroke S.W. & a very good one - The Mathematical Education of George Gabriel Stokes
4 Oliver Darrigol: Stokes's optics I : Waves in lumeniferous ether
5 Oliver Darrigol: Stokes's optics II : Other phenomena in light
6 Peter Lynch: Stokes's fundamental contributions to fluid dynamics.
7 Richard Paris: Stokes's Mathematical work
8 Sloan Evans Despeaux: George Gabriel Stokes and the Royal Society
9 Andrew Whitaker: Stokes and engineering: The analysis of the structure of railway bridges and their collapse
10 Stuart Mathieson: Faith and thought: Stokes as a religious man of science
11 Andrew Fowler: The Scientific legacy of George Gabriel Stokes

About the author: 

Mark McCartney studied mathematics and physics at The Queen's University, Belfast, graduating with a PhD in 1993. He is currently employed as senior lecturer in mathematics at Ulster University His research in applied mathematics is centred around nonlinear dynamics, while his work in the history of mathematics and natural philosophy focuses on the nineteenth century. He is President (2018-2020) of the British Society for the History of Mathematics. ; Andrew Whitaker did his first degree at Oxford University, and his doctorate at the University of Nottingham, where he worked on nuclear magnetic resonance with Peter Mansfield, later Sir Peter and a Nobel Laureate in Medicine for his part in the invention of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). He lectured in Northern Ireland from 1970, initially in the University of Ulster, and from 1989 at Queen's University of Belfast, where he became Professor in 2002. In later years most of his research has been in the foundations of quantum theory, especially the work of John Bell, and more recently he has become involved in historical aspects of physics, in particular quantum physics. ; Alastair Wood is a graduate of St.Andrews University and held Lectureships in the Universities of Manchester and Cranfield prior to becoming Wescan Professor of Applied Mathematics in Dublin City University, serving 9 years as Dean of Faculty. His main research areas of Asymptotic Analvsis and Differential Equations, where Stokes made major contributions, led him to a deeper appreciation of the man and his works. He was a plenary speaker at the 2003 Commemorations of the centenary of Stokes's death held in the Isaac Newton Institute and the Royal Irish Academy. With Michael Berry he organised the 1998 to 2004 Summer Schools at Stokes's birthplace in Co.Sligo.

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