Hugh Blackburn

Biography of Hugh Blackburn

Hugh Blackburn
Hugh Blackburn

Hugh Blackburn (1823-1909) was Professor of Mathematics from 1849 to 1879. He was a Clerk to the Faculty and he was awarded an LLD in 1885.

Born in Fife, the son of a Glasgow sugar merchant, Blackburn studied at Trinity College, Cambridge where he became a lifelong friend of William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin. At Cambridge he invented a pendulum with a double suspension, later known as the Blackburn Pendulum, to demonstrate harmonic motion. He became a member of the "Cambridge Apostles", graduated fifth wrangler in the Mathematics tripos in 1845, and became a Fellow of Trinity the following year. In 1849 he was appointed to the Chair of Mathematics at Glasgow, succeeding William Thomson's father James.

The number of students attending Mathematics classes rose from less than 100 to as many as 400 during Blackburn's tenure of the Chair, and in 1871 Thomas Muir (1844-1934) was appointed to assist him with his teaching. Blackburn was said to be a good teacher but incapable of maintaining discipline in his classes. He retired in 1879 because of growing deafness and he and his wife, the famous illustrator Jemima (1823-1909), retired to their estate in Roshven.


Hugh Blackburn

Born 2 July 1823, Craigflower, Scotland.
Died 9 October 1909.
University Link: Graduate, Professor
GU Degree: LLD, 1885;
Occupation categories: mathematicians
NNAF Reference: GB/NNAF/P161269
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Record last updated: 16th Jul 2009

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