William Spottiswoode, English mathematican and physicists, c 1880.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Etching of William Spottiswoode (1825-1883). Using an early form of transformer, Spottiswoode carried out original work on the polarisation of light and electrical discharge in rarefied gases. He wrote a series of original memoirs on the contact of curves and surfaces and, in 1851, he produced the first elementary mathematical treatise on determinants. In 1871, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was its president from 1878.