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Mathematics at TCD 1592-1992

years of
by T. D. Spearman


The first reference to the teaching of mathematics appears in the Particular Book of the College, which records the income and expenditure of the College in the early years, and which shows that in 1612 Mr. Andrew Martin was to be paid £8 for his mathematical lectures. The Fellows were expected to be versatile and required to contribute in various ways: Anthony Martin was Senior Dean, at a salary of £4, he also lectured on the Body of Divinity and was paid £10 for this. He later became Bishop of Meath but then returned to the College as Provost, administering the affairs of the College under extreme difficulties during the period of the Civil War. He defied the Parliamentary Commissioners by continuing to use the Book of Common Prayer in the College Chapel. We are told that `he preached against the heresies of the time with an apostolic liberty in a crowded congregation.' He died in the College in 1650, of the plague, which was then rampant in Dublin, in great poverty and was buried in the College under the old steeple.

The first appointment to a professorship in mathematics was made in 1652, during the Commonwealth. The parliamentary commission for the government of Ireland, which was responsible for establishing this position, had a clear objective in mind: `forasmuch as there is a great occasion for surveying of lands in this country, and there are diverse ingenious persons, soldiers and others who are desirous to be instructed and fitted for the same'. A former Scholar of the College, Miles Symner, who had been a major in the parliamentary army, was appointed professor and simultaneously elected to Fellowship. He received a salary of £50, in addition to his emoluments as a Fellow. It was stipulated that his lectures should be open to the public allowing soldiers, engaged in survey work, to attend.

After the Restoration Symner's title to his Fellowship was declared invalid. He appears to have retained the Professorship but may not have received a Salary. In 1668, however, the Earl of Donegall endowed a mathematical lectureship which was integrated with the existing professorship and Symner was appointed to it.

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