The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary British Mathematicians of all time. This list of famous British Mathematicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of British Mathematicians.
With an HPI of 79.79, Bertrand Russell is the most famous British Mathematician. His biography has been translated into 120 different languages on wikipedia.
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British mathematician, philosopher, logician, and public intellectual. He had a considerable influence on mathematics, logic, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science and various areas of analytic philosophy, especially philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics.He was one of the early 20th century's most prominent logicians, and a founder of analytic philosophy, along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege, his friend and colleague G. E. Moore and his student and protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. Russell with Moore led the British "revolt against idealism". Together with his former teacher A. N. Whitehead, Russell wrote Principia Mathematica, a milestone in the development of classical logic, and a major attempt to reduce the whole of mathematics to logic (see Logicism). Russell's article "On Denoting" has been considered a "paradigm of philosophy".Russell was a pacifist who championed anti-imperialism and chaired the India League. He occasionally advocated preventive nuclear war, before the opportunity provided by the atomic monopoly had passed and he decided he would "welcome with enthusiasm" world government. He went to prison for his pacifism during World War I. Later, Russell concluded that the war against Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany was a necessary "lesser of two evils" and also criticized Stalinist totalitarianism, condemned the United States' war on Vietnam and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament. In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought". He was also the recipient of the De Morgan Medal (1932), Sylvester Medal (1934), Kalinga Prize (1957), and Jerusalem Prize (1963).
With an HPI of 74.14, John Napier is the 2nd most famous British Mathematician. His biography has been translated into 74 different languages.
John Napier of Merchiston (; 1 February 1550 – 4 April 1617), nicknamed Marvellous Merchiston, was a Scottish landowner known as a mathematician, physicist, and astronomer. He was the 8th Laird of Merchiston. His Latinized name was Ioannes Neper. John Napier is best known as the discoverer of logarithms. He also invented the so-called "Napier's bones" and made common the use of the decimal point in arithmetic and mathematics. Napier's birthplace, Merchiston Tower in Edinburgh, is now part of the facilities of Edinburgh Napier University. There is a memorial to him at St Cuthbert's at the west side of Edinburgh.
With an HPI of 73.05, George Boole is the 3rd most famous British Mathematician. His biography has been translated into 80 different languages.
George Boole (; 2 November 1815 – 8 December 1864) was a largely self-taught English mathematician, philosopher, and logician, most of whose short career was spent as the first professor of mathematics at Queen's College, Cork in Ireland. He worked in the fields of differential equations and algebraic logic, and is best known as the author of The Laws of Thought (1854) which contains Boolean algebra. Boolean logic is credited with laying the foundations for the Information Age.
With an HPI of 72.54, Ada Lovelace is the 4th most famous British Mathematician. Her biography has been translated into 100 different languages.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron; 10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. She was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and to have published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. As a result, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer.Ada Byron was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and Lady Byron. All of Byron's other children were born out of wedlock to other women. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever. Four months later, he commemorated the parting in a poem that begins, "Is thy face like thy mother's my fair child! ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?" He died in Greece when Ada was eight. Her mother remained bitter and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from developing her father's perceived insanity. Despite this, Ada remained interested in him, naming her two sons Byron and Gordon. Upon her death, she was buried next to him at her request. Although often ill in her childhood, Ada pursued her studies assiduously. She married William King in 1835. King was made Earl of Lovelace in 1838, Ada thereby becoming Countess of Lovelace. Her educational and social exploits brought her into contact with scientists such as Andrew Crosse, Charles Babbage, Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Michael Faraday, and the author Charles Dickens, contacts which she used to further her education. Ada described her approach as "poetical science" and herself as an "Analyst (& Metaphysician)".When she was eighteen, her mathematical talents led her to a long working relationship and friendship with fellow British mathematician Charles Babbage, who is known as "the father of computers". She was in particular interested in Babbage's work on the Analytical Engine. Lovelace first met him in June 1833, through their mutual friend, and her private tutor, Mary Somerville. Between 1842 and 1843, Ada translated an article by Italian military engineer Luigi Menabrea about the Analytical Engine, supplementing it with an elaborate set of notes, simply called "Notes". Lovelace's notes are important in the early history of computers, containing what many consider to be the first computer program—that is, an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. Other historians reject this perspective and point out that Babbage's personal notes from the years 1836/1837 contain the first programs for the engine. She also developed a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, while many others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities. Her mindset of "poetical science" led her to ask questions about the Analytical Engine (as shown in her notes) examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool.
With an HPI of 68.32, Alfred North Whitehead is the 5th most famous British Mathematician. His biography has been translated into 64 different languages.
Alfred North Whitehead (15 February 1861 – 30 December 1947) was an English mathematician and philosopher. He is best known as the defining figure of the philosophical school known as process philosophy, which today has found application to a wide variety of disciplines, including ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology, among other areas. In his early career Whitehead wrote primarily on mathematics, logic, and physics. His most notable work in these fields is the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910–1913), which he wrote with former student Bertrand Russell. Principia Mathematica is considered one of the twentieth century's most important works in mathematical logic, and placed 23rd in a list of the top 100 English-language nonfiction books of the twentieth century by Modern Library.Beginning in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Whitehead gradually turned his attention from mathematics to philosophy of science, and finally to metaphysics. He developed a comprehensive metaphysical system which radically departed from most of Western philosophy. Whitehead argued that reality consists of processes rather than material objects, and that processes are best defined by their relations with other processes, thus rejecting the theory that reality is fundamentally constructed by bits of matter that exist independently of one another. Today Whitehead's philosophical works – particularly Process and Reality – are regarded as the foundational texts of process philosophy. Whitehead's process philosophy argues that "there is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us." For this reason, one of the most promising applications of Whitehead's thought in recent years has been in the area of ecological civilization and environmental ethics pioneered by John B. Cobb.
With an HPI of 65.37, Thomas Harriot is the 6th most famous British Mathematician. His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.
Thomas Harriot (; c. 1560 – 2 July 1621), also spelled Harriott, Hariot or Heriot, was an English astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer and translator to whom the theory of refraction is attributed. Thomas Harriot was also recognized for his contributions in navigational techniques, working closely with John White to create advanced maps for navigation. While Harriot worked extensively on numerous papers on the subjects of astronomy, mathematics and navigation, he remains obscure because he published little of it, namely only The Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1588). This book includes descriptions of English settlements and financial issues in Virginia at the time. He is sometimes credited with the introduction of the potato to the British Isles. Harriot was the first person to make a drawing of the Moon through a telescope, on 5 August 1609, about four months before Galileo Galilei. After graduating from St Mary Hall, Oxford, Harriot traveled to the Americas, accompanying the 1585 expedition to Roanoke island funded by Sir Walter Raleigh and led by Sir Ralph Lane. He learned the Carolina Algonquian language from two Native Americans, Wanchese and Manteo, and could translate it, making him a vital member of the expedition. On his return to England, he worked for the 9th Earl of Northumberland.
With an HPI of 64.59, John Couch Adams is the 7th most famous British Mathematician. His biography has been translated into 62 different languages.
John Couch Adams (; 5 June 1819 – 21 January 1892) was a British mathematician and astronomer. He was born in Laneast, near Launceston, Cornwall, and died in Cambridge. His most famous achievement was predicting the existence and position of Neptune, using only mathematics. The calculations were made to explain discrepancies with Uranus's orbit and the laws of Kepler and Newton. At the same time, but unknown to each other, the same calculations were made by Urbain Le Verrier. Le Verrier would send his coordinates to Berlin Observatory astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle, who confirmed the existence of the planet on 23 September 1846, finding it within 1° of Le Verrier's predicted location. (There was, and to some extent still is, some controversy over the apportionment of credit for the discovery; see Discovery of Neptune.) Adams was Lowndean Professor in the University of Cambridge from 1859 until his death. He won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1866. In 1884, he attended the International Meridian Conference as a delegate for Britain. A crater on the Moon is jointly named after him, Walter Sydney Adams and Charles Hitchcock Adams. Neptune's outermost known ring and the asteroid 1996 Adams are also named after him. The Adams Prize, presented by the University of Cambridge, commemorates his prediction of the position of Neptune. His personal library is held at Cambridge University Library.
With an HPI of 64.27, John Wallis is the 8th most famous British Mathematician. His biography has been translated into 41 different languages.
John Wallis (; Latin: Wallisius; 3 December [O.S. 23 November] 1616 – 8 November [O.S. 28 October] 1703) was an English clergyman and mathematician who is given partial credit for the development of infinitesimal calculus. Between 1643 and 1689 he served as chief cryptographer for Parliament and, later, the royal court. He is credited with introducing the symbol ∞ to represent the concept of infinity. He similarly used 1/∞ for an infinitesimal. John Wallis was a contemporary of Newton and one of the greatest intellectuals of the early renaissance of mathematics.
With an HPI of 64.24, G. H. Hardy is the 9th most famous British Mathematician. His biography has been translated into 64 different languages.
Godfrey Harold Hardy (7 February 1877 – 1 December 1947) was an English mathematician, known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis. In biology, he is known for the Hardy–Weinberg principle, a basic principle of population genetics. G. H. Hardy is usually known by those outside the field of mathematics for his 1940 essay A Mathematician's Apology, often considered one of the best insights into the mind of a working mathematician written for the layperson. Starting in 1914, Hardy was the mentor of the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, a relationship that has become celebrated. Hardy almost immediately recognised Ramanujan's extraordinary albeit untutored brilliance, and Hardy and Ramanujan became close collaborators. In an interview by Paul Erdős, when Hardy was asked what his greatest contribution to mathematics was, Hardy unhesitatingly replied that it was the discovery of Ramanujan. In a lecture on Ramanujan, Hardy said that "my association with him is the one romantic incident in my life".: 2
With an HPI of 63.97, Isaac Barrow is the 10th most famous British Mathematician. His biography has been translated into 44 different languages.
Isaac Barrow (October 1630 – 4 May 1677) was an English Christian theologian and mathematician who is generally given credit for his early role in the development of infinitesimal calculus; in particular, for proof of the fundamental theorem of calculus. His work centered on the properties of the tangent; Barrow was the first to calculate the tangents of the kappa curve. He is also notable for being the inaugural holder of the prestigious Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics, a post later held by his student, Isaac Newton.
Pantheon has 108 people classified as mathematicians born between 1175 and 1965. Of these 108, 13 (12.04%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living mathematicians include Andrew Wiles, David Mumford, and Ian Stewart. The most famous deceased mathematicians include Bertrand Russell, John Napier, and George Boole. As of April 2022, 8 new mathematicians have been added to Pantheon including Charles Howard Hinton, E. T. Whittaker, and William Henry Young.
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Which Mathematicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Mathematicians since 1700.