William Emerson (mathematician)

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William Emerson
William emerson b.1701.JPG
Born14 May 1701 (1701-05-14)
Died20 May 1782 (1782-05-21) (aged 81)
Nationality United Kingdom
Scientific career
Fields mathematics

William Emerson (14 May 1701 – 20 May 1782) was an English mathematician. He was born in Hurworth, near Darlington, where his father, Dudley Emerson, also a mathematician, taught a school.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Mathematician person with an extensive knowledge of mathematics

A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics in his or her work, typically to solve mathematical problems.

Darlington town in County Durham, England

Darlington is a large market town in County Durham, in North East England. With a population of 105,564 in 2011, the town lies on the River Skerne, a tributary of the River Tees. The town is administered as part of the Borough of Darlington. The town owes much of its development to the influence of local Quaker families in the Georgian and Victorian era, and who provided much of the finance and vision in creating the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the world's first steam locomotive powered, permanent passenger railway. The town is often colloquially referred to as 'Darlo'.



William himself had a small estate in Weardale called Castle Gate situated not far from Eastgate where he would repair to work throughout the Summer on projects as disparate as stonemasonry and watchmaking. Unsuccessful as a teacher, he devoted himself entirely to studious retirement. Possessed of remarkable energy and forthrightness of speech, Emerson published many works which are singularly free from errata.


Weardale is a dale, or valley, of the east side of the Pennines in County Durham, England. Large parts of Weardale fall within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – the second largest AONB in England and Wales. The upper valley is surrounded by high fells and heather grouse moors. The River Wear flows through Weardale before reaching Bishop Auckland and then Durham, meeting the sea at Sunderland.

In The Principles of Mechanics (1754) he shows a wind-powered vehicle in which the vertically mounted propeller gives direct power to the front wheels via a system of cogs. In mechanics he never advanced a proposition which he had not previously tested in practice, nor published an invention without first proving its effects by a model. He was skilled in the science of music, the theory of sounds, and the ancient and modern scales; but he never attained any excellence as a performer. He died on 20 May 1782 at his native village, where his gravestone bears epitaphs in Latin and Hebrew.

Mechanics is that area of science concerned with the behaviour of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment. The scientific discipline has its origins in Ancient Greece with the writings of Aristotle and Archimedes. During the early modern period, scientists such as Galileo, Kepler, and Newton laid the foundation for what is now known as classical mechanics. It is a branch of classical physics that deals with particles that are either at rest or are moving with velocities significantly less than the speed of light. It can also be defined as a branch of science which deals with the motion of and forces on objects. The field is yet less widely understood in terms of quantum theory.

Music form of art using sound

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Emerson dressed in old clothes and his manners were uncouth. He wore his shirt back to front and his legs wrapped in sacking so as not to scorch them as he sat over the fire. He declined an offer to become FRS because it would cost too much after all the expense of farthing candles he had been put to in the course of his life of study. Emerson rode regularly into Darlington on a horse like Don Quixote's, led by a hired small boy. In old age, plagued by the stone, he would alternately pray and curse, wishing his soul 'could shake off the rags of mortality without such a clitter-me-clatter.'

<i>Don Quixote</i> 1605 novel by Miguel de Cervantes

The Ingenious Gentleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha, or just Don Quixote, is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote is the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. As a founding work of modern Western literature, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published, such as the Bokklubben World Library collection that cites Don Quixote as the authors' choice for the "best literary work ever written".

Like his fellow County Durham savant John Bird, Emerson makes an appearance in Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon.

County Durham County of England

County Durham is a county in North East England. The county town is Durham, a cathedral city. The largest settlement is Darlington, closely followed by Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees. It borders Tyne and Wear to the north east, Northumberland to the north, Cumbria to the west and North Yorkshire to the south. The county's historic boundaries stretch between the rivers Tyne and Tees, thus including places such as Gateshead, Jarrow, South Shields and Sunderland.

John Bird (astronomer) British mathematical instrument maker

John Bird (1709–1776) was a British mathematical instrument maker. He was born at Bishop Auckland. He came to London in 1740 where he worked for Jonathan Sisson and George Graham. By 1745 he had his own business in the Strand. Bird was commissioned to make a brass quadrant 8 feet across for the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, where it was mounted on February 16, 1750, and where it is still preserved. Soon after, duplicates were ordered for France, Spain and Russia.

Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow, he is noted for his dense and complex novels. His fiction and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, genres and themes, including history, music, science, and mathematics. For Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon won the 1973 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.


Doctrine of fluxions, 1743 Emerson - Doctrine of fluxions, 1743 - 719535.tif
Doctrine of fluxions, 1743

Emerson’s works include:

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