Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/213

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY



MARCH, 1913



HENRI POINCARE AS AN INVESTIGATOR[1]
By Professor JAMES BYRNIE SHAW
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

IT has not seemed to me appropriate, nor would there be time, nor should I be able, to enter into an exhaustive study of the life-work of a master-mind like Jules Henri Poincaré. Indeed, to analyze his contributions to astronomy needs a Darwin; to report on his investigations in mathematical physics needs a Planck; to expound his philosophy of science needs a Royce; to exhibit his mathematical creations in all their fullness needs Poincaré. Let it suffice that he was the pride of France, not only of the aristocracy of scholars, but of the nation. He was inspired by the genius of France, with its keen discernment, its eternal search for exact truth, its haunting love of beauty. The mathematical world has lost its incomparable leader, and its admiration for the magnitude of his achievements will be tempered only by the vain desire to know what visions he had not yet given expression to. Investigators of brilliant power for years to come will fill out the outlines of what he had time only to sketch. His vision penetrated the universe from the electron to the galaxy, from instants of time to the sweep of space, from the fundamentals of thought to its most delicate propositions.

In his funeral oration, Painlevée, speaking for the Académie des Sciences, said:[2]

He was only twenty-four years of age, when after four years of silent and sustained reflection, he began the series of mathematical publications which leaves us in doubt whether to admire most its surprising profundity or its surprising fecundity. Whether he attacked the ascension, step by step, of the truths of arithmetic discontinuity, or unloosed the tangle of geometric form, or followed the subtlest
  1. For a biographical sketch of Poincaré see Revue des deux Mondes, 1912, September 15. Also the second edition of Lebon's book on Poincaré has appeared.
  2. Revue du Mois, Vol. 7 (1912), p. 133.