Mathematician:George Biddell Airy

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English mathematician and astronomer

Work on planetary orbits.

Measured the mean density of the Earth.

Devised a method of solution of two-dimensional problems in solid mechanics.

Established Greenwich as the location of the prime meridian.

It was alleged that, through his inaction, Britain lost the opportunity of priority in the discovery of Neptune.




  • Born: 27 July 1801 in Alnwick, Northumberland, England
  • 1831: Received the Copley Medal from Royal Society of London
  • 1834: Made chairman of the Commission set up to construct Standard Weights and Measures
  • 1835: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • 1835: Appointed to the post of Astronomer Royal
  • 1836: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London
  • 1845: Received Royal Medal from Royal Society of London
  • 1881: Retired from his post as Astronomer Royal
  • Died: 2 January 1892 in Greenwich, England

Theorems and Definitions

Definitions of concepts named for George Biddell Airy can be found here.


  • 1825: Trigonometry
  • 1826: Mathematical Tracts on Physical Astronomy
  • 1828: On the Lunar Theory, The Figure of the Earth, Precession and Nutation, and Calculus of Variations
  • 1834: Gravitation
  • 1839: Experiments on Iron-built Ships, instituted for the purpose of discovering a correction for the deviation of the Compass produced-by the Iron of the Ships
  • 1840: On the theoretical explanation of an apparent new polarity of light (Bakerian lecture to the Royal Society of London)
  • 1861: On the Algebraic and Numerical Theory of Errors of Observations and the Combination of Observations
  • 1866: Partial Differential Equations