Booth, James (1806-1878) (DNB00)

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BOOTH, JAMES, LL.D. (1806–1878), mathematician and educationist, was the son of John Booth, and was born at Lava, co. Leitrim, 25 Aug. 1806. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1825, was elected scholar in 1829, graduated B.A. in 1832, M.A. in 1840, and LL.D. in 1842. In 1834 he was awarded Bishop Berkeley's gold medal for Greek. He did not succeed in obtaining a fellowship of his college, though he had a high place in the contest on several occasions. He left Ireland in 1840, and became principal of Bristol College, where he had Mr. F. W. Newman and Dr. W. B. Carpenter as colleagues. This post he retained until 1843, when he was appointed vice-principal of the Liverpool Collegiate Institution. In 1848 he gave up this office, and migrated to London. He had been ordained at Bristol in 1842, and acted there as curate till he removed to Bristol. In 1854 he was appointed minister of St. Anne's, Wandsworth, and in 1859 was presented to the vicarage of Stone, near Aylesbury, by the Royal Astronomical Society, to which society the advowson had been given in 1844 by Dr. Lee. He was also chaplain to the Marquis of Lansdowne, and justice of the peace for Buckinghamshire. He was elected F.R.S. in 1846, and F.R.A.S. in 1859. He was president of the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society from 1846 to 1849, and delivered an introductory address in 1846. He contributed many mathematical papers to various societies. The titles of twenty-nine of these contributions are given in the ‘Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers.’ They were republished, with additions, in two volumes, entitled ‘A Treatise on Some New Geometrical Methods.’ The first volume, relating chiefly to tangential co-ordinates and reciprocal polars, was issued in 1873; the second, containing papers on elliptic integrals and one on conic sections, came out in 1877. His earliest separate publication seems to have been a tract ‘On the Application of a New Analytic Method to the Theory of Curves and Curved Surfaces,’ published at Dublin in 1840. Dr. Booth was the inventor of the tangential co-ordinates known as the Boothian co-ordinates, which, however, were previously introduced by Plücker in 1830 in a paper in ‘Crelle's Journal,’ though the fact was unknown to Booth when he published his own discovery. His educational writings undoubtedly exercised considerable influence in the promotion of popular education. In 1846 he published a paper on ‘Education and Educational Institutions considered with reference to the Industrial Professions and the Present Aspect of Society’ (Liverpool, 8vo, pp. 108), and in the following year another paper entitled ‘Examination the Province of the State, or the Outlines of a Practical System for the Extension of National Education’ (8vo, pp. 74). In 1852 he became a member of the Society of Arts, and at his suggestion the weekly ‘Journal’ of the society was begun. He was treasurer and chairman of the council of the society from 1855 to 1857. Some of the addresses which he delivered about that period were published by the society. Their titles are: ‘How to Learn and What to Learn; two lectures advocating the system of examinations established by the Society of Arts’ (1856); and ‘Systematic Instruction and Periodical Examination’ (1857). He was the main instrument in the establishment and organisation of the Society of Arts examinations, a system which was afterwards modified and developed by Mr. Harry Chester. He was also instrumental in preparing the reports on ‘Middle Class Education,’ issued in 1857 by the society, and in that year he annotated and edited for the same body the volume of ‘Speeches and Addresses of His Royal Highness the Prince Albert.’ He published also the following, and probably other addresses: ‘On the Female Education of the Industrial Classes’ (1855); ‘On the Self-Improvement of the Working Classes’ (1858). Booth was an eloquent preacher, and published: ‘The Bible and its Interpreters, three sermons’ (1861); ‘A Sermon on the Death of Admiral W. H. Smyth, D.C.L., F.R.S.’ (1865); ‘The Lord's Supper, a Feast after Sacrifice’ (1870). He died at the vicarage at Stone, Buckinghamshire, 15 April 1878, aged 71 years. His wife, daughter of Mr. Daniel Watney of Wandsworth, died in 1874.

[J. W. L. Glaisher in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Soc. xxxix. 219–25; Journal of the Society of Arts, xxvi. 483; the Guardian (copied from the Times), 1878, p. 576; Clergy List, 1842, p. 78.]

C. W. S.