Duncan Gregory

British mathematician
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Duncan Farquharson Gregory (13 April 1813 – 23 February 1844), a Scottish mathematician, and professor of medicine in the university of Edinburgh.

Duncan Farquharson Gregory (1813-1844)



Examples of the processes of the differential and integral calculus, (1841)


Gregory (1841), Examples of the processes of the differential and integral calculus, J. & J.J Deighton and John W. Parker

  • The chief object of the present work is, as its title indicates, to furnish to the student examples by which to illustrate the processes of the Differential and Integral Calculus. In this respect it will be seen to agree with Professor Peacock's Collection of Examples ; and indeed if a second edition of that excellent work had been published I should not have undertaken the task of making this compilation. But as Professor Peacock informed me that he had not leisure to superintend the publication of a second edition of his "Examples" which had been long out of print, I thought that I should do a service to students by preparing a work on a similar plan, but with such modifications as seemed called for by the increased cultivation of Analysis in this University.
  • It has always appeared to me that we sacrifice many of the advantages and more of the pleasures of studying any science by omitting all reference to the history of its progress: I have therefore occasionally introduced historical notices of those problems which are interesting either from the nature of the questions involved, or from their bearing on the history of the Calculus. ...[T]hese digressions may serve to relieve the dryness of a mere collection of Examples.
  • In this chapter I shall collect those Theorems in the Differential Calculus which, depending only on the laws of combination of the symbols of differentiation, and not on the functions which are operated on by these symbols, may be proved by the method of the separation of the symbols : but as the principles of this method have not as yet found a place in the elementary works on the Calculus, I shall first state? briefly the theory on which it is founded.
    • p. 237; Lead paragraph of Ch. XV, On General Theorems in the Differential Calculus,; Cited in: James Gasser (2000) A Boole Anthology: Recent and Classical Studies in the Logic of George Boole,, p. 52
  • There are a number of theorems in ordinary algebra, which, though apparently proved to be true only for symbols representing numbers, admit of a much more extended application. Such theorems depend only on the laws of combination to which the symbols are subject, and are therefore true for all symbols, whatever their nature may be, which are subject to the same laws of combination. The laws with which we have here concern are few in number, and may be stated in the following manner. Let a, b represent two operations, u, v two subjects on which they operate, then the laws are
(1) ab(u) = ba (u),
(2) a(u + v) = a (u) + a (v),
(3) am.an.u = am + n.u.
The first of these laws is called the commutative law, and symbols which are subject to it are called commutative symbols. The second law is called distributive, and the symbols subject to it distributive symbols. The third law is not so much a law of combination of the operation denoted by a, but rather of the operation performed on a, which is indicated by the index affixed to a. It may be conveniently called the law of repetition, since the most obvious and important case of it is that in which m and n are integers, and am therefore indicates the repetition m times of the operation a. That these are the laws employed in the demonstration of the principal theorems in Algebra, a slight examination of the processes will easily shew ; but they are not confined to symbols of numbers ; they apply also to the symbol used to denote differentiation.

About Gregory

  • Mr. Gregory: Late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and author of the -well-known Examples. Few in so short a life have done so much for science. The high sense which I entertain of his merits as a mathematician, is mingled with feelings of gratitude for much valuable assistance rendered to me in my earlier essays.
  • Since the beginning of the century, the general aspect of mathematics has greatly changed. A different class of problems from that which chiefly engaged the attention of the great writers of the last age has arisen, and the new requirements of natural philosophy have greatly influenced the progress of pure analysis. The mathematical theories of heat, light, electricity, and magnetism, may be fairly regarded as the achievement of the last fifty years. And in this class of researches an idea is prominent, which comparatively occurs but seldom in purely dynamical enquiries. This is the idea of discontinuity. Thus, for instance, in the theory of heat, the conditions relating to the surface of the body whose variations of temperature we are considering, form an essential and peculiar element of the problem; their peculiarity arises from the discontinuity of the transition from the temperature of the body to that of the space in which it is placed. Similarly, in the undulatory theory of light, there is much difficulty in determining the conditions which belong to the bounding surfaces of any portion of ether; and although this difficulty has, in the ordinary applications of the theory, been avoided by the introduction of proximate principles, it cannot be said to have been got ‘rid of.
    The power, therefore, of symbolizing discontinuity, if such an expression may be permitted, is essential to the progress of the more recent applications of mathematics to natural philosophy, and it is well known that this power is intimately connected with the theory of definite integrals. Hence the principal importance of this theory, which was altogether passed over in the earlier collection of examples.
    Mr Gregory devoted to it a chapter of his work, and noticed particularly some of the more remarkable applications of definite integrals to the expression of the solutions of partial differential equations. It is not improbable that in another edition he would have developed this subject at somewhat greater length. He had long been an admirer of Fourier’s great work on heat, to which this part of mathematics owes so much; and once, while turning over its pages, remarked to the writer,—“ All these things seem to me to be a kind of mathematical paradise."
    • Robert Leslie Ellis The Mathematical and Other Writings of Robert Leslie Ellis. Edited by W. Walton. p. 198-99
  • In 1841 Gregory published his Examples of the Processes of the Differential and Integral Calculus, a work which produced a great change for the better in the Cambridge mathematical books. It is the first in which constant use is made of the method known by the name of the separation of the symbols of operation, and the author has enlivened its pages by occasionally introducing historical notices of the problems discussed... His other mathematical work was A Treatise on the Application of Analysis to Solid Geometry, which was left unfinished at his death, and was completed and published by Walton in 1845. This is the first treatise in which the system of solid geometry is developed by means of symmetrical equations, and is a great advance on those of Leroy and Hymers.
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