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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury and the Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury People

What is the Bloomsbury Project?

The Leverhulme-funded UCL Bloomsbury Project was established to investigate 19th-century Bloomsbury’s development from swampy rubbish-dump to centre of intellectual life

Led by Professor Rosemary Ashton, with Dr Deborah Colville as Researcher, the Project has traced the origins, Bloomsbury locations, and reforming significance of hundreds of progressive and innovative institutions

Many of the extensive archival resources relating to these institutions have also been identified and examined by the Project, and Bloomsbury’s developing streets and squares have been mapped and described

This website is a gateway to the information gathered and edited by Project members during the Project’s lifetime, 1 October 2007–30 April 2011, with the co-operation of Bloomsbury’s institutions, societies, and local residents

James Joseph Sylvester (né James Joseph) (1814–1897)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

He was Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of London (later University College London) from 1838 to 1841, and had been connected with the University from its opening

Sylvester, a mathematical genius at school, was assessed by one of the founders of the new University, Olinthus Gregory, Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; he proceeded at the unusually early age of fourteen to study maths among the first intake when the University of London opened in autumn 1828

Expelled in the early months of 1829 after an incident in the students’ refectory at the University in which he raised a table knife with the alleged intention of attacking a fellow student (H. Hale Bellot, University College London 1826–1926, 1929), he matriculated at Cambridge in 1831, coming second wrangler in mathematics there in 1837 (after interruptions through illness)

As a Jew, Sylvester was unable to take his degree at Cambridge (the lack of religious subscription being the reason he had enrolled in the secular University of London in the first instance) or to compete for Fellowships

He applied in October 1837 for the vacant Chair of Natural Philosophy at the recently renamed University College London, taking up the post at the age of 24 (College Correspondence no. 4143, UCL Special Collections)

Sylvester left in 1841 after finding his duties uncongenial, and proceeded to the University of Virginia, where he remained for an even shorter time, returning to England in 1843 to take up an actuarial post (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

He won the De Morgan gold medal of the London Mathematical Society in 1887

For more general biographical information about James Joseph Sylvester, see his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

This page last modified 7 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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