George Chrystal

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George Chrystal

George Chrystal.jpg
George Chrystal (1851–1911)
Born(1851-03-08)8 March 1851
Died3 November 1911(1911-11-03) (aged 60)
Resting placeFoveran Churchyard, Aberdeenshire
NationalityScottish, UK
Alma materUniversity of Aberdeen
Peterhouse, Cambridge
Known forExperimental verification of Ohm's law
Chrystal's equation
Spouse(s)Margaret Anne Balfour (1870-1903 her death)
AwardsRoyal Medal (1911)
Scientific career
FieldsPhysicist and mathematician
InstitutionsUniversity of St Andrews
University of Cambridge
University of Edinburgh
Academic advisorsJames Clerk Maxwell
Notable studentsJoseph Wedderburn
George Chrystal at work. Etching by W. Hole, 1884
Foveran Churchyard

George Chrystal FRSE FRS(8 March 1851 – 3 November 1911) was a Scottish mathematician.[1] He is primarily remembered for his books on algebra and for his studies of seiches (wave patterns in large inland bodies of water) which earned him a Gold Medal from the Royal Society of London (confirmed shortly after his death).[2]


He was born in Old Meldrum on 8 March 1851, the son of Margaret (née Burr) and William Chrystal a wealthy farmer and grain merchant.[3]

He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and the University of Aberdeen, moving in 1872 to study under James Clerk Maxwell at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he graduated Second Wrangler in 1875, joint with William Burnside, and was elected a fellow of Corpus Christi.[4] He was appointed to the Regius Chair of Mathematics at University of St. Andrews in 1877, and then in 1879 to the Chair in Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh. In 1911, he was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society for his researches into the surface oscillations of Scottish lochs.[5]

He was a contributor to the drafting of the Universities (Scotland) Act 1889 and one of the founders of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1880, his proposers including James Clerk Maxwell. He was awarded the Society's Keith Medal for 1879-81 and their Gunning Victoria Jubilee Prize for the period 1904–8. He served as Vice President of the Society 1895-1901 and General Secretary 1901–1911.[6] He was awarded two honorary doctorates (LLD): University of Aberdeen in 1887 and University of Glasgow in 1911. He is credited with instigating the move of the Society from the Mound to George Street.[7][8]

In later life he is listed as living at 5 Belgrave Crescent in western Edinburgh.[9]

The mathematician Alexander G. Burgess trained under him.[10]

He grew ill in 1909 and this worsened early in 1911, leading the university to grant him leave of absence from April of that year. A work-free summer did not improve him.[11] He died on 3 November 1911[12] at 5 Belgrave Crescent in Edinburgh but was taken north for burial, and is buried in Foveran Churchyard in Aberdeenshire.


He married Margaret Anne Balfour (1851-1903) in 1879. She died before him and is buried in the northern Victorian extension to Dean Cemetery with their son Walter MacDonald Chrystal who died in infancy. They had four sons and two daughters.


  • Chrystal, George (May 1999) [1886]. Algebra: An Elementary Text-Book for the Higher Classes of Secondary Schools and for Colleges. (Volumes I & II) (7 ed.). American Mathematical Society. ISBN 978-0-8218-1931-9. (Out of copyright: 1900 and subsequent editions are available in reprint or online.)
  • Three articles within the 1911 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica: Pascal, Blaise; Perpetual Motion; and Riemann, Georg Friedrich Bernhard.


  1. ^ Knott, C. G. (9 November 1911). "obit. Prof. George Chrystal". Nature. 88 (2193): 47–49. doi:10.1038/088047b0.
  2. ^ "Chrystal biography". Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Chrystal, George (CHRL871G)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Chrystal, George" . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Obituary of George Chrystal:The Times, 4 November 1911
  8. ^
  9. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1890-1
  10. ^
  11. ^ Obituary of George Chrystal: The Scotsman, 4 November 1911
  12. ^

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