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Peacock’s Impact

Peacock’s Impact

(p.198) Chapter Seven Peacock’s Impact
Creatively Undecided
Menachem Fisch
University of Chicago Press

The chapter describes how four major figures responded to the Treatise: Augustus DeMorgan, William Rowan Hamilton, the young and short-lived D. F. Gregory, and Peacock's Trinity colleague, William Whewell. All four, as we shall see, treated it as a major contribution to be seriously reckoned with, and all to some extent misread it in the light of their own perspectives. And all four responded differently in ways that combined to herald in a new and essentially formalistic era in British mathematics, much earlier than in German or France. The final section describes the transformation of Peacock's own thinking as a result, as is evident in the 2nd edition of his work published too late to be effective, 15 years later. It is left to others to assess the lasting worth of the framework transition set in motion by Peacock's Treatise, which is presented here as a case-study of the kind of creative indecision, its sources and possible impact that the book argues is the key to understanding how framework transitions can be rational.

Keywords:   George Peacock, Augustus DeMorgan, W. R. Hamilton, mathematical formalism

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