1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cockle, Sir James

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COCKLE, SIR JAMES (1819–1895), English lawyer and mathematician, was born on the 14th of January 1819. He was the second son of James Cockle, a surgeon, of Great Oakley, Essex. Educated at Charterhouse and Trinity College, Cambridge, he entered the Middle Temple in 1838, practising as a special pleader in 1845 and being called in 1846. Joining the midland circuit, he acquired a good practice, and on the recommendation of Chief Justice Sir William Erle he was appointed chief justice of Queensland in 1863. He received the honour of knighthood in 1869, retired from the bench, and returned to England in 1879.

Cockle is more remembered for his mathematical and scientific investigations than as a lawyer. Like many young mathematicians he attacked the problem of resolving the higher algebraic equations, notwithstanding Abel’s proof that a solution by radicles was impossible. In this field Cockle achieved some notable results, amongst which is his reproduction of Sir William R. Hamilton’s modification of Abel’s theorem. Algebraic forms were a favourite object of his studies, and he discovered and developed the theory of criticoids, or differential invariants; he also made contributions to the theory of differential equations. He displayed a keen interest in scientific societies. From 1863 to 1879 he was president of the Queensland Philosophical Society (now incorporated in the Royal Society of Queensland); on his return to England he became associated with the London Mathematical Society, of which he was president from 1886 to 1888, and the Royal Astronomical Society, serving as a member of the council from 1888 to 1892. He died in London on the 27th of January 1895.

A volume containing his scientific and mathematical researches made during the years 1864–1877 was presented to the British Museum in 1897 by his widow. See the obituary notice by the Rev. R. Harley in Proc. Roy. Soc. vol. 59.

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