(August 16, 1821 – January 26, 1895)
In terms of British mathematical greatness, Arthur Cayley ranks second only to Isaac Newton. He was a lawyer with lifelong affinity for maths. After a decade-and-a-half in lucrative law practice, he switched to academics. In 1863 he became the first Sadleirian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. He would hold this position until his death in 1895. But long before ditching his legal wig and gown, Cayley published impressive math treatises which helped make him one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time. His total publications were estimated to be around 900, if letters and notes are included. Most of these pertained to algebra and geometry. He pioneered the Theory of Matrices, in addition to advancing Évariste Galois’ Group Theory. He also improved upon the inventions of Henrik Abel, Julius Pluecker and William Hamilton. Alongside Bernhard Riemann and Ludwig Schlaefli, he was an architect of multidimensional geometry. His exploits on Projective Geometry, Elliptic Functions, and Combinatorics earned him reputation as both an original thinker and an outstanding algorist. Today, additional reverence is accorded to him and others (such as David Hilbert), for their early support for women’s tertiary education. Arthur Cayley was also supportive of James Joseph Sylvester when universities in the U.K. and the U.S. discriminated against him due to his Jewish background. His achievements resulted in him receiving various awards. Numerous concepts and theorems, including the: Cayley Algebra, Cayley Theorem, Cayley Numbers, etc., were named in his honor. He is also the eponym of the Cayley lunar impact crater.