Thomas Carlyle

Born: 4 Dec 1795 in Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Died: 5 Feb 1881 in London, England

[Mathematiker Bild]

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Thomas Carlyle is best known as an writer. Thomas attended the village school at Ecclefechan until he was ten years old when he went to Annan Academy. He entered the Edinburgh University in 1809 and studied a general course not specialising in any particular topic although he showed particular promise in mathematics..

In 1814 Thomas obtained a mathematics teaching post at Annan. In 1816 he went to another school at Kirkcaldy, again as a mathematics teacher.

Unhappy with teaching, Thomas returned to Edinburgh University to study law in 1819. He spent three unhappy years there, eventually deciding that he would change direction again. He began a serious study of German and he turned to history and literature for which he is famed.

Carlyle held a number of posts as a tutor after leaving Edinburgh University, having no fixed base. He married one of his pupils in 1826 and he began to write but found no publisher. In 1834 he went to London after he was rejected for several posts.

In London he wrote the three volume historical work The French Revolution which brought him both popular and academic fame after its publication in 1837. Invitations to lecture solved his financial problems.

As well as his historical works Carlyle wrote Chartism (1840) which opposes conventional economic theory. His later historical works include the six volume work The History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great (1858-1865).

Carlyle became rector of Edinburgh University in 1865. His installation address On the Choice of Books (1866) was published and its tone of high moral exhortation made it very successful.

As a mathematician Carlyle is famed for his English translation of Legendre's éléments de géométrie . This translation ran to 33 editions.

A O J Cockshut, writing in [BinEB], describes Carlyle in these words:-

Though incapable of lying, Carlyle was completely unreliable as an observer, since he invariably saw what he had decided in advance that he ought to see. ... Carlyle was never able to respect ordinary men ... His fierceness of spirit was composed of two elements, a serious Calvinistic desire to denounce evil and a habitual nervous ill temper, for which he often reproached himself but which he never managed to defeat.
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JOC/EFR December 1996