Lucasian Professor of Mathematics

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The Lucasian Chair of Mathematics (/lˈkziən/) is a mathematics professorship in the University of Cambridge, England; its holder is known as the Lucasian Professor. The post was founded in 1663 by Henry Lucas, who was Cambridge University's Member of Parliament in 1639–1640, and it was officially established by King Charles II on 18 January 1664. It was described by The Daily Telegraph as one of the most prestigious academic posts in the world.[1] Since its establishment, the professorship has been held by, among others, Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage, George Stokes, Joseph Larmor, Paul Dirac, and Stephen Hawking.


Henry Lucas, in his will, bequeathed his library of 4,000 volumes to the university and left instructions for the purchase of land whose yielding should provide £100 a year for the founding of a professorship.[2]

Babbage applied for the vacancy in 1826, after Turton, but Airy was appointed. William Whewell (who considered applying, but preferred both Herschel and Babbage to himself) remarked that he would be the best professor, but that the heads of the colleges would not see that. Nonetheless, Babbage was appointed when the chair became free again two years later.[3]

The current and 19th Lucasian Professor is Michael Cates, starting from 1 July 2015.[4] The previous holder of the post was theoretical physicist Michael Green who was a fellow in Clare Hall. He was appointed in October 2009,[5] succeeding Stephen Hawking, who himself retired in September 2009, in the year of his 67th birthday, as required by the university.[6] Green holds the position of Emeritus Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.

List of Lucasian professors[edit]

# Year of appointment Portrait Name Speciality Tenure (years)
1 1663 Isaac Barrow by Mary Beale.jpg Isaac Barrow
Classics and mathematics 6
2 1669 GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689.jpg Isaac Newton
Mathematics and physics 33
3 1702 William Whiston by Sarah Hoadly.jpg William Whiston
Mathematics 9
4 1711 Nicolas Saunderson.jpg Nicholas Saunderson
Mathematics 28
5 1739 John Colson by John Wollaston.jpg John Colson
Mathematics 21
6 1760 Edwardwaring.jpg Edward Waring
Mathematics 38
7 1798 Isaac Milner by Johann Gottlieb Facius, 1798 (cropped).png Isaac Milner
Mathematics and chemistry 22
8 1820 No image.png Robert Woodhouse
Mathematics 2
9 1822 Thomas Turton by HW Pickersgill.jpg Thomas Turton
Mathematics 4
10 1826 George Biddell Airy 1891.jpg George Biddell Airy
Astronomy 2
11 1828 Charles Babbage - 1860.jpg Charles Babbage
Mathematics and computing 11
12 1839 Joshua King by William Beechey.jpg Joshua King
Mathematics 10
13 1849 Ggstokes.jpg George Gabriel Stokes
Physics and fluid mechanics 54
14 1903 Joseph Larmor.jpeg Joseph Larmor
Physics 29
15 1932 Paul Dirac, 1933.jpg Paul Dirac
Physics 37
16 1969 James Lighthill
Fluid mechanics 10
17 1979 Stephen Hawking.StarChild.jpg Stephen Hawking
Theoretical physics and cosmology 30
18 2009 No image.png Michael Green
(born 1946)
String theory 6
19 2015 Mike-cates.jpg Michael Cates
(born 1961)
Statistical mechanics of soft condensed matter current

Cultural references[edit]

In the final episode of the science-fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of the main characters, the android Data, holds the Lucasian Chair in the late 24th century, albeit in an alternate reality.[7][8][9]


  1. ^ "Michael Green to become Lucasian Professor of Mathematics". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  2. ^ Bruen, Robert (May 1995). "A Brief History of The Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics at Cambridge University". Archived from the original on 23 December 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  3. ^ Isaac Todhunter (1876). William Whewell, D. D., Master of Trinity College, Cambridge: An Account of His Writings: with Selections from His Literary and Scientific Correspondence. MacMillan. pp. 71ff.
  4. ^ "Cambridge University Reporter No 6380". 18 March 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Stephen Hawking's successor as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics: Michael Green". 20 October 2009. Archived from the original on 18 February 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Hawking gives up academic title". BBC News. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  7. ^ Orrman-Rossiter, Kevin. "From Newton to Hawking and beyond: a short history of the Lucasian Chair". The Conversation. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  8. ^ "Michael Zaslow, First "Redshirt" on Star Trek, The Original Series, Died 11 Years Ago from ALS". The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  9. ^ "Video: How String Theory scaled up". Retrieved 25 February 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kevin Knox and Richard Noakes, From Newton to Hawking: A History of Cambridge University's Lucasian Professors of Mathematics ISBN 0-521-66310-5