Merrifield, Charles Watkins (DNB00)

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MERRIFIELD, CHARLES WATKINS (1827–1884), mathematician, son of John Merrifield of Tavistock, Devonshire, was born in London (or according to some accounts at Brighton) on 20 Oct. 1827. After receiving a good general education he entered the Education Department in 1847 at Whitehall, and was subsequently appointed an examiner. Although called to the bar in January 1851, he did not practise. All his leisure he devoted to mathematics and hydraulics, and especially to naval architecture. In 1858 he published a paper ‘On the Geometry of the Elliptic Equation,’ which disclosed remarkable aptitude. Important papers on the calculation of elliptic functions followed, and led to his election on 4 June 1863 as fellow of the Royal Society. On 19 March 1866 he was elected member of the London Mathematical Society, became member of the council on 10 Nov. 1870, vice-president 1876–8, president 1878–80, and treasurer until his resignation on 14 Dec. 1882. On the establishment in 1867 of the Royal School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at South Kensington, Merrifield became its first vice-principal, succeeding shortly afterwards to the post of principal. This office he held until 1873, when, on the transference of the school to Greenwich, he returned to the Education Office. From 1864 to 1875 Merrifield was member and secretary of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, receiving a handsome testimonial on his retirement. He was also a member of the Association for Improvement of Geometrical Teaching, and he sat on many committees of the British Association, being president of Section G at the Brighton meeting of 1875 and at the Glasgow meeting of 1876. He served on various royal commissions, including one on the unseaworthiness of ships in 1869, frequently acted as assessor in the wreck commissioner's court, and was superintendent of the naval museum at South Kensington. After two attacks of paralysis in April 1882 and October 1883 respectively, he died at 45 Church Road, Hove, Brighton, on 1 Jan. 1884, aged 56. Merrifield married Elizabeth Ellen, daughter of John Nicholls of Trekenning, St. Colomb; she died on 23 March 1869 at 23 Scarsdale Villas, South Kensington.

Merrifield's works are: 1. ‘Miscellaneous Memoirs on Pure Mathematics,’ London, 1861, 8vo. 2. ‘A Catalogue of a Collection of Models of Ruled Surfaces,’ London, 1872, 8vo. 3. ‘Technical Arithmetic,’ London, 1872, 8vo. He contributed more than a hundred papers to the ‘Transactions of the Institution of Naval Architects,’ and numerous others to the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ the ‘Assurance Magazine,’ the ‘British Association Reports,’ the ‘School of Naval Architects Annual,’ to the ‘Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society,’ and various other periodicals. Twenty-eight of his papers are enumerated in the Royal Society's ‘Catalogue of Scientific Papers.’ Some of his papers on ‘the difficult and scientifically interesting subject of sea-waves’ were translated into Italian for the ‘Revista Marittima,’ in which they appear with a footnote bearing testimony to the author's ‘extensive knowledge and excellence of style.’ He also edited for many years Longman's ‘Text-books of Science’ series, and on 16 Aug. 1866 contributed a paper to the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’ on ‘The Distress in Cornwall.’

[Works in Brit. Mus. Libr.; Times, 4 Jan. 1884; Athenæum, 5 Jan. 1884; Nature, 17 Jan. 1884 (by J. W. L. Glaisher); Annual Register, 1884, ii. 112; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub.; Boase's Collectanea Cornub.; Proc. Royal Soc. vol. xxxvi.; Philosophical Trans. passim; Proc. Instit. Naval Architects, vols. v–xxi.; Cat. Scientific Papers, 1800–63 and 1864–73; Proc. London Math. Soc. vols. ii–xii. and vol. xv. App. pp. 281–3.]

A. F. P.