Robert Stawell Ball

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For other people named Robert Ball, see Robert Ball (disambiguation).
Robert Stawell Ball
Robert Stawell Ball.jpg
Born (1840-07-01)1 July 1840
Dublin, Ireland
Died 25 November 1913(1913-11-25) (aged 73)
Cambridge, England
Nationality Irish
Fields Astronomy
Mechanics
Mathematics
Institutions University of Dublin
Cambridge Observatory
Alma mater University of Dublin
Known for Screw theory

Sir Robert Stawell Ball FRS (1 July 1840 – 25 November 1913) was an Irish astronomer who founded the screw theory.

He was the son of naturalist Robert Ball[1] and Amelia Gresley Hellicar.

Ball worked for Lord Rosse from 1865 to 1867. In 1867 he became Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Royal College of Science in Dublin. There he lectured on mechanics and published an elementary account of the science.[2]

In 1874 Ball was appointed Royal Astronomer of Ireland and Andrews Professor of Astronomy in the University of Dublin at Dunsink Observatory.[3]

Ball contributed to the science of kinematics by delineating the screw displacement:

When Ball and the screw theorists speak of screws they no longer mean actual cylindrical objects with helical threads cut into them but the possible motion of any body whatsoever, including that of the screw independently of the nut.[4]

Ball's treatise The Theory of Screws (1876) is now in the public domain.[5]

In 1882 Popular Science Monthly carried his article "A Glimpse through the Corridors of Time".[6] The following year it carried his two-part article on "The Boundaries of Astronomy".[7]

Ball expounded the tides in Time and Tide: a Romance of the Moon[8] In 1892 he was appointed Lowndean Professor of Astronomy and Geometry at Cambridge University at the same time becoming director of the Cambridge Observatory. He was a fellow of King's College, Cambridge.

In 1900 Cambridge University Press published A Treatise on the Theory of Screws[9] That year he also published The Story of the Heavens[10] Much in the limelight, he stood as President of the Quaternion Society.

In 1908 he published A Treatise on Spherical Astronomy,[11] which is a textbook on astronomy starting from spherical trigonometry and the celestial sphere, considering atmospheric refraction and aberration of light, and introducing basic use of a generalized instrument.

His work The Story of the Heavens is mentioned in the "Ithaka" chapter of Ulysses. His lectures, articles and books (e.g. Starland and The Story of the Heavens) were mostly popular and simple in style.

Robert Ball is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge, with his wife Lady Francis Elizabeth Ball.[12] Their children were: Frances Amelia, Robert Steele, William Valentine (later Sir), Mary Agnetta, Charles Rowan Hamilton, and Randall Gresley (later Colonel).

Lectures[edit]

In 1892, 1898 and 1900 he was invited to deliver the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture. Astronomy; Astronomy and Great Chapters from the Book of Nature.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hockey, Thomas (2009). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  2. ^ R.S. Ball (1871) Experimental Mechanics: A course of lectures delivered at the Royal College of Science for Ireland from Google books
  3. ^ Ball, Robert Stawell from Askaboutireland.ie
  4. ^ Müller-Sievers, Helmut (2012). The Cylinder: Kinematics of the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 148. ISBN 9780520270770. 
  5. ^ R.S. Ball (1876) The Theory of Screws: A study in the dynamics of a rigid body from Google Books
  6. ^ R.S. Ball (1882) A Glimpse through the Corridors of Time from Wikisource
  7. ^ R.S. Ball (1883) The Boundaries of Astronomy Part I and Part II
  8. ^ See Project Gutenberg
  9. ^ R.S. Ball (1900) A Treatise on the Theory of Screws, weblink from Cornell University Historical Math Monographs
  10. ^ The Story of the Heavens is available from Project Gutenburg (external link)
  11. ^ R. S. Ball (1908) A Treatise on Spherical Astronomy Google preview
  12. ^ Papworth Astronomy Club » Blog Archive » Mark Hurn – “Sir Robert Stawell Ball”. Papworthastronomy.org. Retrieved on 2014-06-07.

External links[edit]