James Joseph Sylvester
James Joseph Sylvester  

Born 
London, England 
3 September 1814
Died 
15 March 1897 London, England 
(aged 82)
Nationality  British 
Alma mater  St. John's College, Cambridge 
Known for 
coining the term 'graph' Coining the term 'discriminant' Chebyshev–Sylvester constant Sylvester's sequence Sylvester's formula Sylvester's determinant theorem Sylvester matrix (resultant matrix) Sylvester–Gallai theorem Sylvester's law of inertia Sylver coinage Sylvester's criterion Sylvester domain 
Awards 
Royal Medal (1861) Copley Medal (1880) De Morgan Medal (1887) 
Scientific career  
Fields  Mathematics 
Institutions 
Johns Hopkins University University College London University of Virginia Royal Military Academy, Woolwich 
Academic advisors 
John Hymers Augustus De Morgan 
Doctoral students 
William Durfee George B. Halsted Washington Irving Stringham 
Other notable students 
Isaac Todhunter William Roberts McDaniel Harry Fielding Reid Christine LaddFranklin 
Influenced 
Morgan Crofton Christine LaddFranklin George Salmon 
James Joseph Sylvester FRS (3 September 1814 – 15 March 1897) was an English mathematician. He made fundamental contributions to matrix theory, invariant theory, number theory, partition theory, and combinatorics. He played a leadership role in American mathematics in the later half of the 19th century as a professor at the Johns Hopkins University and as founder of the American Journal of Mathematics. At his death, he was professor at Oxford.
Biography
Sylvester was born James Joseph in London, England. His father, Abraham Joseph, was a merchant. James adopted the surname Sylvester when his older brother did so upon emigration to the United States—a country which at that time required all immigrants to have a given name, a middle name, and a surname. At the age of 14, Sylvester was a student of Augustus De Morgan at the University of London. His family withdrew him from the University after he was accused of stabbing a fellow student with a knife. Subsequently, he attended the Liverpool Royal Institution.
Sylvester began his study of mathematics at St John's College, Cambridge in 1831,^{[1]} where his tutor was John Hymers. Although his studies were interrupted for almost two years due to a prolonged illness, he nevertheless ranked second in Cambridge's famous mathematical examination, the tripos, for which he sat in 1837. However, Sylvester was not issued a degree, because graduates at that time were required to state their acceptance of the ThirtyNine Articles of the Church of England, and Sylvester could not do so because he was Jewish. For the same reason, he was unable to compete for a Fellowship or obtain a Smith's prize.^{[2]} In 1838, Sylvester became professor of natural philosophy at University College London and in 1839 a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 1841, he was awarded a BA and an MA by Trinity College, Dublin. In the same year he moved to the United States to become a professor of mathematics at the University of Virginia, but left after less than four months following a violent encounter with two students he had disciplined. He moved to New York City and began friendships with the Harvard mathematician Benjamin Peirce (father of Charles Sanders Peirce) and the Princeton physicist Joseph Henry. However, he left in November 1843 after being denied appointment as Professor of Mathematics at Columbia College (now University), again for his Judaism, and returned to England.
On his return to England, he was hired in 1844 by the Equity and Law Life Assurance Society for which he developed successful actuarial models and served as de facto CEO, a position that required a law degree. As a result, he studied for the Bar, meeting a fellow British mathematician studying law, Arthur Cayley, with whom he made significant contributions to invariant theory and also matrix theory during a long collaboration.^{[3]}^{[incomplete short citation]} He did not obtain a position teaching university mathematics until 1855, when he was appointed professor of mathematics at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, from which he retired in 1869, because the compulsory retirement age was 55. The Woolwich academy initially refused to pay Sylvester his full pension, and only relented after a prolonged public controversy, during which Sylvester took his case to the letters page of The Times.
One of Sylvester's lifelong passions was for poetry; he read and translated works from the original French, German, Italian, Latin and Greek, and many of his mathematical papers contain illustrative quotes from classical poetry. Following his early retirement, Sylvester (1870) published a book entitled The Laws of Verse in which he attempted to codify a set of laws for prosody in poetry.
In 1872, he finally received his B.A. and M.A. from Cambridge, having been denied the degrees due to his being a Jew.^{[1]}
In 1876^{[4]} Sylvester again crossed the Atlantic Ocean to become the inaugural professor of mathematics at the new Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. His salary was $5,000 (quite generous for the time), which he demanded be paid in gold. After negotiation, agreement was reached on a salary that was not paid in gold.^{[5]} In 1878 he founded the American Journal of Mathematics. The only other mathematical journal in the US at that time was the Analyst, which eventually became the Annals of Mathematics.
In 1883, he returned to England to take up the Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford University. He held this chair until his death, although in 1892 the University appointed a deputy professor to the same chair.
Sylvester invented a great number of mathematical terms such as "matrix" (in 1850),^{[6]} "graph" (combinatorics)^{[7]} and "discriminant".^{[8]} He coined the term "totient" for Euler's totient function φ(n).^{[9]} His collected scientific work fills four volumes. In 1880, the Royal Society of London awarded Sylvester the Copley Medal, its highest award for scientific achievement; in 1901, it instituted the Sylvester Medal in his memory, to encourage mathematical research after his death in Oxford. In Discrete geometry he is remembered for Sylvester's Problem and a result on the orchard problem.
Sylvester House, a portion of an undergraduate dormitory at Johns Hopkins University, is named in his honor. Several professorships there are named in his honor also.
Publications
 Sylvester, James Joseph (1870), The Laws of Verse Or Principles of Versification Exemplified in Metrical Translations: together with an annotated reprint of the inaugural presidential address to the mathematical and physical section of the British Association at Exeter, London: Longmans, Green and Co, ISBN 9781177911412
 Sylvester, James Joseph (1973) [1904], Baker, Henry Frederick, ed., The collected mathematical papers of James Joseph Sylvester, I, New York: AMS Chelsea Publishing, ISBN 9780821836545^{[10]}
 Sylvester, James Joseph (1973) [1908], Baker, Henry Frederick, ed., The collected mathematical papers of James Joseph Sylvester, II, New York: AMS Chelsea Publishing, ISBN 9780821847190^{[10]}
 Sylvester, James Joseph (1973) [1904], Baker, Henry Frederick, ed., The collected mathematical papers of James Joseph Sylvester, III, New York: AMS Chelsea Publishing, ISBN 9780821847206^{[11]}
 Sylvester, James Joseph (1973) [1904], Baker, Henry Frederick, ed., The collected mathematical papers of James Joseph Sylvester, IV, New York: AMS Chelsea Publishing, ISBN 9780821842386
See also
Notes
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} "Sylvester, James Joseph (SLVR831JJ)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
 ^ Bell, Eric Temple (1986). Men of Mathematics. Simon Schuster.
 ^ Parshall
 ^ "Preliminary Outline of Instructions for the Session Beginning October 3, 1876". Johns Hopkins University. Official Circulars. No. 5. September 1876.
 ^ Hawkins, Hugh (1960). Pioneer: A History of the Johns Hopkins University, 18741889. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 41–43.
 ^ Matrices and determinants, The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive

^ See:
 J. J. Sylvester (February 7, 1878) "Chemistry and algebra," Nature, 17 : 284. From page 284: "Every invariant and covariant thus becomes expressible by a graph precisely identical with a Kekuléan diagram or chemicograph."
 J. J. Sylvester (1878) "On an application of the new atomic theory to the graphical representation of the invariants and covariants of binary quantics, — with three appendices," American Journal of Mathematics, Pure and Applied, 1 (1) : 6490. The term "graph" first appears in this paper on page 65.
 ^ J. J. Sylvester (1851) "On a remarkable discovery in the theory of canonical forms and of hyperdeterminants," Philosophical Magazine, 4th series, 2 : 391–410; Sylvester coins the word "discriminant" on page 406.
 ^ J. J. Sylvester (1879) "On certain ternary cubicform equations," American Journal of Mathematics, 2 : 357–393; Sylvester coins the term "totient" on page 361: "(the socalled Φ function of any number I shall here and hereafter designate as its τ function and call its Totient)"
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} Dickson, L. E. (1909). "Review: Sylvester's Mathematical Papers, vols. I & II, ed. by H. F. Baker". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 15 (5): 232–239. doi:10.1090/S00029904190901746X.
 ^ Dickson, L. E. (1911). "Review: Sylvester's Mathematical Papers, vol. III, ed. by H. F. Baker". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 17 (5): 254–255. doi:10.1090/S000299041911020407.
References
 GrattanGuinness, I. (2001), "The contributions of J. J. Sylvester, F.R.S., to mechanics and mathematical physics", Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 55 (2): 253–265, doi:10.1098/rsnr.2001.0142, MR 1840760.
 Macfarlane, Alexander (2009) [1916], Lectures on Ten British Mathematicians of the Nineteenth Century, Mathematical monographs, 17, Cornell University Library, ISBN 9781112283062
 Parshall, Karen Hunger (1998), James Joseph Sylvester. Life and work in letters., The Clarendon Press Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780198503910, MR 1674190, Review
 Parshall, Karen Hunger (2006), James Joseph Sylvester. Jewish mathematician in a Victorian world, Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 9780801882913, MR 2216541
External links
 O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "James Joseph Sylvester", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
 James Joseph Sylvester at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
 Collected papers – from the University of Michigan Historical Math Collection
 J.J.Sylvester home page
 Selected Poetry of James Joseph Sylvester
 Works by James Joseph Sylvester at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
 1814 births
 1897 deaths
 19thcentury American mathematicians
 19thcentury English mathematicians
 Academics of University College London
 Algebraists
 Alumni of St John's College, Cambridge
 British actuaries
 British Jews
 Combinatorialists
 Fellows of the Royal Society
 Jewish American scientists
 Johns Hopkins University faculty
 Number theorists
 Alumni of Trinity College, Dublin
 Recipients of the Copley Medal
 Royal Medal winners
 Savilian Professors of Geometry
 Second Wranglers
 De Morgan Medallists