Who is Hamilton?

William Rowan Hamilton was born in 1805 in Dublin and is universally recognised as the greatest mathematician, and arguably the greatest scientist, that Ireland has produced to date.

He came to early fame for his work on optics, including his remarkable prediction of the phenomenon of conical refraction, but his lasting fame is for his work on the fundamentals of mechanics.

Hamilton’s canonical form of the equations of motion, and his emphasis on the importance of variational principles, remain at the heart of theoretical physics and were essential bridges from the world of classical physics to the modern quantum mechanics.


Eureka moment at Broome Bridge

On 16 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 had that very rare occurrence in science, a Eureka moment. He 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 


Hamilton's contribution to our lives today

Quaternions are an extension of complex numbers and make it possible to understand the rotation of a 3D object in space and have had wide ranging implications for modern technology.

They can be found in simple everyday objects, from the rotation of your mobile phone’s screen to Quantum mechanics, computer gaming animation, CGI in movies and were instrumental in putting the first man on the moon.


Hamilton's Legacy

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. 

Ibec is delighted to partner with the Royal Irish Academy on Hamilton Day to promote the lasting legacy of an Irish man who made a seminal contribution to the world around us today.


Hamilton Day

Hamilton Day commemorates Ireland’s most famous scientist takes place on Friday the 16th of October 2020. 

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.


Hamilton Lecture

This year’s prestigious Hamilton Lecture will be given by Professor Terence Tao. Terry 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 also.

The event is free to attend and you can register to attend here.


IIllustration and Design: Lily Gaertner. “Hamilton Did It!” Copy writing: Jake Skelly. BA Design Visual Communication Programme, TU Dublin School of Creative Arts.