1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wallace, William (Scottish mathematician)

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WALLACE, WILLIAM (1768-1843), Scottish mathematician, was born on the 23rd of September 1768 at Dysart in Fifeshire, where he received his school education. In 1784 his family removed to Edinburgh, where he himself was set to learn the trade of a bookbinder; but his taste for mathematics had already developed itself, and he made such use of his leisure hours that before the completion of his apprenticeship he had made considerable acquirements in geometry, algebra and astronomy. He was further assisted in his studies by John Robison (1739-1805) and John Playfair, to whom his abilities had become known. After various changes of situation, dictated mainly by a desire to gain time for study, he became assistant teacher of mathematics in the academy of Perth in 1794, and this post he exchanged in 1803 for a mathematical mastership in the Royal Military College at Great Marlow (afterwards at Sandhurst). In 1819 he was chosen to succeed John Leslie in the chair of mathematics at Edinburgh, and in 1838, when compelled by ill-health to retire, he received a government pension for life. He died in Edinburgh on the 28th of April 1843.

In his earlier years Wallace was an occasional contributor to Leybourne's Mathematical Repository and the Gentleman's Mathematical Companion. Between 1801 and 1810 he contributed articles on “Algebra,” “Conic Sections,” “Trigonometry,” and several others in mathematical and physical science to the fourth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and some of these were retained in subsequent editions from the fifth to the eighth inclusive. He was also the author of the principal mathematical articles in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, edited by David Brewster (1808-1830). He also contributed many important papers to the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

See Transactions of the Roy. Ast. Soc., 1844.