James Joseph Sylvester Quotes

James Joseph Sylvester FRS (3 September 1814 – 15 March 1897) was an English mathematician. He made fundamental contributions to matrix theory, invariant theory, number theory, partition theory, and combinatorics. He played a leadership role in American mathematics in the later half of the 19th century as a professor at the Johns Hopkins University and as founder of the American Journal of Mathematics. At his death, he was professor at Oxford.

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James Joseph Sylvester


Surely with as good reason as had Archimedes to have the cylinder, cone and sphere engraved on his tombstone might our distinguished countrymen leave testamentary directions for the cubic eikosiheptagram to be engraved on theirs. Spirit of the Universe! wither are we drifting, and when, where, and how is all this to end?

James Joseph Sylvester


So long as a man remains a gregarious and sociable being, he cannot cut himself off from the gratification of the instinct of imparting what he is learning, of propagating through others the ideas and impressions seething in his own brain, without stunting and atrophying his moral nature and drying up the surest sources of his future intellectual replenishment.

James Joseph Sylvester


If I were asked to name, in one word, the pole star round which the mathematical firmament revolves, the central idea which pervades the whole corpus of mathematical doctrine, I should point to Continuity as contained in our notions of space, and say, it is this, it is this!

James Joseph Sylvester


Mathematics is the music of reason.

James Joseph Sylvester


“Aspiring to these wide generalizations, the analysis of quadratic functions soars to a pitch from whence it may look proudly down on the feeble and vain attempts of geometry proper to rise to its level or to emulate it in its flights.”

James Joseph Sylvester


“The object of pure physics is the unfolding of the laws of the intelligible world; the object of pure mathematics that of unfolding the laws of human intelligence.”

James Joseph Sylvester


“The early study of Euclid made me a hater of geometry.”

James Joseph Sylvester


“There is no study in the world which brings into more harmonious action all the faculties of the mind than [mathematics],... or, like this, seems to raise them, by successive steps of initiation, to higher and higher states of conscious intellectual being.”

James Joseph Sylvester


“May not music be described as the mathematics of the sense, mathematics as music of the reason? The musician feels mathematics, the mathematician thinks music: music the dream, mathematics the working life.”

James Joseph Sylvester


The object of pure Mathematic (is) that of unfolding the laws of human intelligence.

James Joseph Sylvester


As the prerogative of Natural Science is to cultivate a taste for observation, so that of Mathematics is, almost from the starting point, to stimulate the faculty of invention.

James Joseph Sylvester


[Mathematics] unceasingly calls forth the faculties of observation and comparison; one of its principal weapons is induction: it has frequent recourse to trial and verification; and it affords a boundless scope for the exercise of the highest efforts of imagination and invention.

James Joseph Sylvester


The theory of ramification is one of pure colligation, for it takes no account of magnitude or position; geometrical lines are used, but these have no more real bearing on the matter than those employed in genealogical tables have in explaining the laws of procreation.

James Joseph Sylvester


The mathematician lives long and lives young; the wings of his soul do not early drop off, nor do its pores become clogged with the earthy particles blown from the dusty highways of vulgar life.

James Joseph Sylvester


A mathematical idea should not be petrified in a formalised axiomatic setting, but should be considered instead as flowing as a river.

James Joseph Sylvester