Arthur W. Conway

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Arthur William Conway FRS[1] (1876–1950) was President of University College Dublin between 1940 and 1947.

Born in Wexford, he received his early education in St Peter's College, Wexford and proceeded to enter old University College, Dublin in 1892. He received his BA degree from the Royal University of Ireland in 1896 with honours in Latin, English, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. In 1897, he received his MA degree with highest honours in mathematics and proceeded to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, becoming University Scholar there in 1901. Also in 1901, he was appointed to the professorship of Mathematical Physics in the old University College and held the Chair until the creation of the new college in 1909. He also taught for a short time at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth.

He married Agnes Christina Bingham on 19 August 1903; they had three daughters and one son.[2]

One of Conway's students was Éamon de Valera, whom he introduced to quaternions which originated in Ireland. De Valera warmed to the subject and engaged in research of this novelty of abstract algebra. Later, when de Valera became Taoiseach (he was also subsequently President of Ireland), he called upon Conway while forming the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.[3]

Conway is remembered for his application of biquaternion algebra to the special theory of relativity. He published an article[4] in 1911, and in 1912 asserted priority over Ludwik Silberstein, who also applied biquaternions to relativity.[5] This claim was backed up by George Temple in his book 100 Years of Mathematics.[6] By the end of his life, he published work relating quaternions to quantum mechanics,[7] which was referred to in a PhD thesis[8] by J. Lambek in 1950.

In 1918, he was the Irish Parliamentary Party candidate in South Londonderry and in the National University of Ireland, coming second in both.

He remained a distinguished scholar in the field of mathematics and theoretical physics, and made a special study of William Rowan Hamilton. With J. L. Synge, he edited the first volume of Hamilton's mathematical papers[9] and with A. J. McConnell he edited the second volume of Hamilton's mathematical papers.[10] Conway was also active in college life, being appointed Registrar, a position he occupied until his election as president in 1940.[11] He retired in 1947 from the presidency of UCD. In 1953, some of his writings were edited by J. McConnell for publication by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.[12]


  1. ^ Whittaker, E. T. (1951). "Arthur William Conway. 1875-1950". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 7 (20): 328–326. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1951.0004.  edit
  2. ^ MacTutor biography
  3. ^ De Valera School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland
  4. ^ Arthur W. Conway (1911) "On the application of quaternions to some recent developments in electrical theory", Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 29 A:1–9
  5. ^ A.W. Conway (1912) "The quaternionic form of relativity", Philosophical Magazine (6) 24:208
  6. ^ George Temple (1981) 100 Years of Mathematics: a personal viewpoint, §6.6 "Quaternions in Relativity Theory", page 51, Springer-Verlag ISBN 0-387-91192-8
  7. ^ A.W. Conway (1948) "Quaternions and quantum mechanics" Pontificia Academia Scientiarum, Acta Vol. XII-N.23, 1948
  8. ^ J. Lambek (1950) "Biquaternion vector fields over Minkowski space", PhD thesis, April 1950
  9. ^ Conway, A. W.; Synge, J. L. (9 March 1929). "Letter to the Editor: Hamilton's Contributions to Geometrical Optics". Nature 123: 349. doi:10.1038/123349c0. 
  10. ^ Bourgin, D. G. (1942). "Review: The Mathematical Papers of Sir William Rowan Hamilton, Vol. II". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc 48 (11): 813–818. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1942-07796-2. 
  11. ^ "Arthur W. Conway". UCD Archives. Archived from the original on 25 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-29. 
  12. ^ J. McConnell (1953) Selected Papers of Arthur William Conway, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.