John William Stubbs

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John William Stubbs (1821–1897) was an Irish mathematician and clergyman who served as bursar of Trinity College Dublin (TCD). He has been co-credited with introducing the geometric concept of inversion in a circle, and late in life he authored a book on the history of the University of Dublin.[1]


Stubbs was born in Finglas, a suburb of Dublin, and graduated from TCD in 1840 as first senior moderator in mathematics, with a gold medal.[2]

He published in mathematics over the next few years, and has been co-credited (along with John Kells Ingram) with introducing the geometric concept of inversion in a circle,[3] in a joint paper.[4] We now know that Jacob Steiner (in 1824) and Giusto Bellavitis (in 1836) had stumbled on similar constructions earlier, as had Joseph Liouville and, a little later, Lord Kelvin.[5]

This Ingram & Stubbs innovation was highlighted in John Casey's work, A Sequel to the First Six Books of Euclid containing An Easy Introduction to Modern Geometry, with Numerous Examples (4th edition, 1886),[6] and also in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy in 1945.

In 1845 Stubbs got his MA, was made a Fellow of TCD, and was admitted to holy orders, henceforth shifting his focus to church matters. His doctor of divinity was awarded in 1866, and in 1882 he was made Senior Fellow and Bursar of TCD. He also served as the treasurer of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.[2] He had married Catherine Louisa Cotter in 1855, and the couple subsequently had five children.[2]

In 1889, he published the book, The History of the University of Dublin, from Its Foundation to the End of the Eighteenth Century.[7]


  1. ^ Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Mathematical and physical sciences, 1945 p. 87
  2. ^ a b c Irish Builder and Engineer, Volume 29 p. 226
  3. ^ A History of Mathematics By Florian Cajori, p. 292
  4. ^ Properties of the cardioide have been obtained by the method of inversion by JK Ingram and JW Stubbs, Dublin Phil Soc Trans I, 1842–43.
  5. ^ Curves and Their Properties by Robert C. Yates, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc.,Washington, D.C., p. 127: "Geometrical inversion seems to be due to Jakob Steiner who indicated a knowledge of the subject in 1824. He was closely followed by Adolphe Quetelet (1825) who gave some examples. Apparently independently discovered by Giusto Bellavitis in 1836, by Stubbs and Ingram in 1842–3, and by Lord Kelvin in 1845.)"
  6. ^ A sequel to the first six books of the Elements of Euclid by John Casey, Pub Dublin : Hodges, Figgis & co. (1886)
  7. ^ The history of the University of Dublin by John William Stubbs, Dublin, Hodges, Figgis, & Co.; London, Longmans, Green, & Co. (1889)

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