Love, Augustus Edward Hough

(1863-1940), mathematician and geophysicist

by E. A. Milne, rev. Julia Tompson

© Oxford University Press 2004 All rights reserved

Love, Augustus Edward Hough (1863-1940), mathematician and geophysicist, was born on 17 April 1863 at Weston-super-Mare, the second son of John Henry Love, surgeon, and his wife, Emily Serle. He grew up in Wolverhampton, where his father was police surgeon. He had two sisters, to the younger of whom, Blanche, he was especially close; after their father's death she kept house for him for the rest of his life. He was unmarried.

Love entered Wolverhampton grammar school in 1874. In 1881 he was awarded a sizarship at St John's College, Cambridge, to which he went up in 1882. He was at first doubtful whether to read classics or mathematics, but chose the latter and gradually came to the top of his year. He was elected scholar of the college in 1884 and was second wrangler in the mathematical tripos of 1885; he was awarded the first Smith's prize in 1887 after being elected the previous year to a fellowship at St John's which he retained until 1899, occupying the post of college lecturer in mathematics most of that time. He was elected FRS in 1894. During his Cambridge days he began his long association with the London Mathematical Society, which he served as secretary (1895-1910) and as president (1912-19). In 1926 he was awarded the society's De Morgan medal. In 1911 he won the Adams prize of the University of Cambridge for an essay on geodynamics.

In 1898 Love was elected to the Sedleian chair of natural philosophy at Oxford, a position which he held until his death. He was elected a fellow of Queen's College, Oxford, in 1927, when he was also elected an honorary fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. He was awarded a Royal medal of the Royal Society in 1909, and its Sylvester medal in 1937. He became an associate of the Italian Accademia dei Lincei, and a corresponding member of the Institut de France.

Love's chosen field of research was the mathematical theory of elasticity, and its application to geophysics. On this subject, and on problems of hydrodynamics and electromagnetism involving similar differential equations, he contributed to various journals some fifty memoirs. He is now known mainly for his important contributions to theoretical geophysics, published chiefly in his Adams prize essay, Some Problems of Geodynamics (1911). Several of his concepts are still in use. His model for the propagation of (purely distortional) surface waves, known as 'Love waves', brought the mathematical theory of surface waves into concordance with the observational data of the seismologist. Moreover, his work made possible the detection of differences of thickness in the crust of the earth, and he also made significant contributions to the dynamical theory of tides and to tidal measurement. During his lifetime, however, Love was mainly known as the author of what was a standard work, A Treatise on the Mathematical Theory of Elasticity (1892-3). This is a scholarly work, written with a historical sense; it is comprehensive, elegantly written, and became a classic in the field. Though Love was none too familiar with the practical application of the field the book remains a permanent monument to the academic aspect of elasticity. The treatment is rigidly analytical throughout, but it took form too early to incorporate tensor calculus.

Love had a certain whimsicality of manner and appearance which endeared him to his many friends. Although no experimenter, in his emphasis on clear exposition, logical tidiness, and foundational knowledge, he continued the conservative tradition of applied mathematics earlier exemplified by Sir George Stokes. His 'architectural' style, described as 'savouring of a more leisurely age' (Milne, 475), and equally his emphasis on theory rather than application, fitted well the educational priorities of Oxford science. Love died at 25 Banbury Road, Oxford, on 5 June 1940, and was buried at Wolvercote, Oxford.


E. A. Milne, Obits. FRS, 3 (1939-41), 467-82
The Times (6 June 1940)
Nature, 146 (1940), 393-4
Journal of the London Mathematical Society, 16 (1941), 68-80
Venn, Alum. Cant.
CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1941)

Air Force Research Laboratories, Cambridge, Massachusetts, letters to Lord Rayleigh
St John Cam., letters to Sir J. Larmor

Elliott & Fry, photograph, RS

Wealth at death  
£5248 8s. 10d.: administration with will, 6 May 1941, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Oxford University Press 2004 All rights reserved


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