Benjamin Peirce

Benjamin Peirce

Infobox Scientist
name = Benjamin Peirce
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caption = Benjamin Peirce
birth_date = April 4, 1809
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death_date = October 6, 1880
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citizenship =
nationality = American
ethnicity =
field = mathematics
work_institutions = Harvard University
alma_mater = Harvard University
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doctoral_students =
known_for = celestial mechanics
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Benjamin Peirce (pronEng|ˈpɜrs "purse" ["Peirce", in the case of Benjamin Peirce and his son C.S. Peirce, is pronounced exactly like the English-language word "purse": audio|en-us-purse.ogg|Audio (US). See "Note on the Pronunciation of 'Peirce'", The "Peirce [Edition] Project Newsletter", Vol. 1, Nos. 3/4, Dec. 1994, [ Eprint] .] ), April 4, 1809October 6, 1880) was an American mathematician who taught at Harvard University for forty years. He made contributions to celestial mechanics, number theory, algebra, and the philosophy of mathematics.

After graduating from Harvard, he remained as a tutor(1829), and was subsequently appointed professor of mathematics in 1831. He added astronomy to his portfolio in 1842, and remained as Harvard professor until his death. In addition, he was instrumental in the development of Harvard's science curriculum, served as the college librarian, and was director of the U.S. Coast Survey from 1867 from 1874.

In number theory, he proved there is no odd perfect number with fewer than four prime factors.

In algebra, he was notable for the study of associative algebras. He first introduced the terms idempotent and nilpotent in 1870 to describe elements of these algebras.

In the philosophy of mathematics, he became known for the statement that "Mathematics is the science that draws necessary conclusions", [First line of "Linear Associative Algebra"] and believed, along with George Boole, that mathematics could be used to analyze logic. This was in opposition to the program of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell to base mathematics on logic.

He was an expert witness in the Howland will forgery trial. His analysis of the signature in question showed that it resembled another particular handwriting example so closely that the chances of such a match were statistically extremely remote.

As a person he was devoutly Christian, seeing "mathematics as study of God's work by God's creatures." Fact|date=August 2008

He married Sarah Hunt Mills, the daughter of U.S. Senator Elijah Hunt Mills. [Adams, Henry. "The Life of George Cabot Lodge". pg. 4-5. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1911] They produced three sons and a daughter: Charles Peirce a famous logician, James Mill who also taught mathematics at Harvard, and H.H.D who worked for Herter Brothers.


The lunar crater Peirce is named for Peirce.


* "Physical and Celestial Mathematics", (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1855)
* "An Elementary Treatise on Plane and Spherical Trigonometry" (1861)
* "Linear Associative Algebra" (1880)



* F.P. Matz "B.O. Pierce biography" American Mathematical Monthly 2:173-9 (1895).
* S. R. Peterson, "Benjamin Peirce: Mathematician and Philosopher", "Journal of the History of Ideas" 16, 89–112 (1955)
* P. Meier and S. Zaibel, "Benjamin Pierce and the Howland Will", Journal of the American Statistical Association 75, 497–506 (1980)

External links

* Grattan-Guinness, Ivor, and Walsh, Alison (2005), "Benjamin Peirce", "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy", Edward N. Zalta (ed.), [ Eprint] .
* O'Connor, John J., and Robertson, Edmund F. (2005), "Benjamin Peirce", "MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive", [ Eprint] .
*cite journal|title=Linear Associative Algebra|first= Benjamin|last= Peirce|journal= American Journal of Mathematics|issue= Vol. 4, No. 1/4. (1881|url=|unused_data=|, pages= 97-229 JSTOR.

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Look at other dictionaries:

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