Today marks Hamilton Day, celebrating the life and work of William Rowan Hamilton who is universally recognised as the greatest mathematician, and arguably the greatest scientist, that Ireland has produced to date.
Eureka at Broome Bridge
Hamilton Day celebrates that very rare occurrence in science, a Eureka moment.
On the 16th of October 1843, William Hamilton and his wife Helen were walking along the banks of the Royal Canal from Dunsink Observatory to the Royal Irish Academy where he was President.
At Broome Bridge Hamilton suddenly hit on the solution to a problem he had been working on for a long time and in his excitement, he took out his penknife and scratched his formula for Quaternion algebra onto the bridge: i² = j² = k² = ijk = −1
Quaternions are an extension of complex numbers and make it possible to understand the rotation of a 3D object in space.
They have had wide ranging implications for modern technology. Quaternions can be found in everyday objects, from the rotation of your mobile phone’s screen, computer gaming animation, CGI in movies and were instrumental in putting the first man on the moon.
Ireland’s scientific and mathematic tradition underpins our economy. Over the last 50 years, it has transformed to become dynamic, innovative, high-tech and has digital at its core.
As this transformation continues at pace, so too will the need for people to have advanced digital and numerical literacy skills. Ibec is committed to promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education to encourage people to consider STEM related careers but also because we recognise STEM’s key role in safeguarding Ireland’s economic future.
The Next Generation
Ibec is delighted to partner with the Royal Irish Academy on Hamilton Day to promote the lasting legacy of an Irish scientist who made a seminal contribution to how we live our lives and is still inspiring mathematicians today.
The day includes an award ceremony to recognise the most gifted third level mathematics students in Ireland, a masterclass for early-career researchers and concludes with the Hamilton lecture which is given by an internationally renowned speaker.
This year’s prestigious Hamilton Lecture will be given by Professor Terence Tao. Professor Tao has been called the ‘Mozart of Maths’ and is considered by many to be the greatest living Mathematician.
In his talk entitled 'The Cosmic Distance Ladder’ he will show how we can use basic secondary-school level maths, along with indirect measurements, to work out the distances between celestial bodies near and afar. He will be joined by a panel of Ireland's top mathematicians for a Q&A session and will respond to questions submitted by viewers.
The event is taking place at 4 pm today and is free to attend. Please encourage colleagues and family members to register here.
To learn more about Hamilton visit our website and follow #HamiltonDay on social media.