Hamilton's contributions to Dynamics

William R. Hamilton published two celebrated papers on a General Method in Dynamics in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Hamilton adapted to the study of dynamics the methods he had developed for the study of optical systems.

Hamilton's approach to dynamics had been introduced briefly the conclusion of a paper On a General Method of expressing the Paths of Light and of the Planets by the Coefficients of a Characteristic Function (1833) published in the Dublin University Review in the autumn of 1833.

Hamilton subsequently published some short papers on the hodograph in which he showed that planetary motion under an inverse-square force law is characterized by the property that the path traced by the tip of the velocity vector is a circle.

Hamilton published some short papers on the application of the method of quaternions to some dynamical questions, and also gave some applications of quaternions in the study of the rotation of a solid body. He also published some other short papers on the application of quaternions to problems in dynamics.


D.R. Wilkins
School of Mathematics
Trinity College, Dublin