Ireland's greatest mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, was also am astronomer, a poet and friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge. He died on the 2nd of September 1865 and 150 years later we celebrate his extraordinary life. Poet-Physicist Iggy McGovern some of his poet/physicist friends will be getting together for a staged reading of 12 sonnets, featuring family, friends, poets, priests, mathematicians, matriarchs, and patriot performers.
We'll be reading from Iggy's book, 'A Mystic Dream of 4' , a book of 64 sonnets about the life and times of William Rowan Hamilton.
For Hamilton, science and art were not separate but indivisible. He described his seminal 1843 discovery of the quaternion – which is a kind of four-dimensional number - in poetic terms: “I felt that galvanic circuit of thought close”. Appropriately enough, this discovery happened not in a laboratory but on a walk by the Royal Canal. He immediately scratched the formula for quaternion multiplication:
= == ijk = -1
on the wall of Brougham Bridge by the Royal Canal, lest he forget it. Unfortunately that scratching didn’t survive the years, or the weather, so now a stone plaque has been put up on the bridge in memory of Hamilton’s eureka moment.
Reading about Hamilton’s life, we might pertinently ask: would he have been so remarkable a mathematician had he not also given himself so freely to poetry and imagination? If he had not let himself be galvanised by circuits of artistic and scientific thought, could he have made his great breakthrough?
Hamilton pretty much answered this question himself. He wrote that the quaternion was “born as a curious offspring of a quaternion of parents - say of geometry, algebra, metaphysics and poetry.”
The event will take place in the first floor cafe ofBooks Upstairs on the afternoon of Sunday 6 December at 3pm.
Tickets are €5 and available at Books Upstairs or online.