# 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Peirce, Benjamin

**PEIRCE, BENJAMIN** (1809–1880), American mathematician and astronomer, was born at Salem, Massachusetts, on the 4th of April 1809. Graduating at Harvard College in 1829, he became mathematical tutor there in 1831 and professor in 1833 He had already assisted Nathaniel Bowditch in his translation of the *Mécanique céleste*, and now produced a series of mathematical textbooks characterized by the brevity and terseness which made his teaching unattractive to inapt pupils. Young men of talent, on the contrary, found his instruction most stimulating, and after Bowditch’s death in 1838 Peirce stood first among American mathematicians. His researches into the perturbations of Uranus and Neptune (*Proc. Amer.* *Acad*., 1848) gave him a wider fame; he became in 1849 consulting
astronomer to the *American Nautical Almanac*, and for
this work prepared new tables of the moon (1852). A discussion
of the equilibrium of Saturn’s rings led him to conclude in 1855
that they must be of a fluid nature. From 1867 to 1874 he was
superintendent of the Coast Survey. In 1857 he published his
best known work, the *System of Analytical Mechanics*, which
was, however, surpassed in brilliant originality by his *Linear*
*Associative Algebra* (lithographed privately in a few copies,
1870; reprinted in the *Amer. Journ. Math.*, 1882). He died at
Cambridge, Mass., on the 6th of October 1880.

See *New Amer. Cyclopaedia* (Ripley and Dana), vol. xiii. (1861);
T. J. J. See, *Popular Astronomy*, iii. 49; *Nature*, xxii. 607; R. Grant,
*Hist. of Phys. Astronomy*, pp. 205, 292; J. C. Poggendorff, *Biog.*
*lit. Handworterbuch*, *Month. Notices Roy. Astr. Society*, xli. 191.