Hymers, John (DNB00)

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HYMERS, JOHN (1803–1887), mathematician, was born 20 July 1803 at Ormesby in Cleveland, Yorkshire. His father was a farmer, and his mother was daughter of John Parrington, rector of Skelton in Cleveland. After attending schools at Witton-le-Wear, Durham, and at Sedbergh in the West Riding,- Hymers gained a sizarship at St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1822, and proceeding B.A. in 1826 as second wrangler, he was elected fellow in 1827. He was for some years very successful with private pupils, but became assistant tutor of his college in 1829, tutor in 1832, senior fellow in 1838, president in 1848. He was moderator in the mathematical tripos 1833-4, and Lady Margaret preacher in 1841; proceeded B.D. in 1836, and D.D. in 1841, and was elected fellow of the Royal Society 31 May 1838. Hymers was a conscientious tutor, and exerted a very beneficial influence on his college.

In 1852 Hymers was presented by his college to the rectory of Brandesburton in Holderness, East Yorkshire, and spent there the last thirty-five years of his life. Appointed J.P. for the East Riding in 1857, his decisions as a magistrate were noted for their precision, He enjoyed good health until his death on 7 April 1887. He was unmarried.

By his will of 24 Aug. 1885 Hymers bequeathed all his property to the mayor and corporation of Hull as a foundation for a grammar school 'to train intelligence in whatever rank it may be found amongst the population of the town and port.' An obscurity in the wording of the will rendered the bequest invalid, but the heir-at-law spontaneously offered the corporation a sum of 40,000l. to fulfil Hymers's purpose.

Hymers was not a mere mathematician. He travelled largely on the continent, and was well read in classical authors. Through his efforts a portrait of Wordsworth, with whom he was distantly connected, was painted by H. W. Pickersgill, R.A., for the college. Hymers afterwards presented to its library some of the poet's manuscripts, including the well-known sonnet addressed to this picture.

Hymers's books, with one exception, were mathematical, and exhibited much acquaintance with the progress of mathematics on the continent. The most important are: 1. 'Treatise on the Analytical Geometry of Three Dimensions, and of Curves of Double Curvature,' 1830. 2. 'Integral Calculus' which in the second edition (1835) introduced the subject of 'Elliptic Functions' to English students. 3. 'Treatise on Conic Sections and the Theory of Plane Curves, introducing the new Method of Abridged Notation,' 1837. This work at once became a standard text-book. 4. 'Theory of Equations,' 1837; third edition, 1858. 5. 'Differential Equations and the Calculus of Finite Differences,' Cambridge, 1839. 6. 'Treatise on Plane and Spherical Trigonometry,' 1847. Hymers issued a revised edition of W. Maddy's 'Treatise on Astronomy;' reprinted Fisher's funeral sermon on the Countess of Richmond and Derby, with notes to illustrate 'her munificent patronage of religion and learning,' and he published catalogues of the Margaret professors and preachers at Cambridge and Oxford.

[Athenæum, April 1887; Hull Daily Mail, 12 April 1887 ; Hull News, 12 April 1887; private information; W. Knight's Poetical Works of Wordsworth, vii. 265, x. 412, xi. 191, 310; The Eagle, a magazine of St. John's Coll., 1887.]

R. E. A.