Mathematicians Of The Day

4th August

Quotation of the day

From William Rowan Hamilton
In fact, with all my very high admiration ... for Gauss, I have some private reasons for believing, I might say knowing, that he did not anticipate the quaternions. In fact, if I don't forget the year, I met a particular friend, and (as I was told) pupil of Gauss, Baron von Waltershausen, .... at the Second Cambridge Meeting of the British Association in 1845, just after Herschel had spoken of my quaternions and your triple algebra, in his speech from the throne. The said Baron soon afterward called on me here, ... he informed me that his friend and (in one sense) master, Gauss, had long wished to frame a sort of triple algebra; but that his notion had been, that the third dimension of space was to be symbolically denoted by some new transcendental, as imaginary, with respect to √-1, as that was with respect to 1. Now you see, as I saw then, that this was in fundamental contradiction to my plan of treating all dimensions of space with absolute impartiality, no one more real than another.
Letter to De Morgan (1852): Quoted in R P Graves, Life of Sir William Rowan Hamilton