"An important professorship of mathematick, the Lucasian Chair, was deeded in December 1663 at Cambridge University, England. Henry Lucas, a Member of Parliament for the university from 1639 to 1640, left instructions in his will for the purchase of land with a value that would provide an annual income of 100 pounds to support the professorship. King Charles II signed the letter of acceptance of the deed on January 18, 1664 and Isaac Barrow, the first professor to occupy the Chair, took office in February, 1664. He gave the first lecture on March 14, 1664." [Christianson 1984]
Lucas, in his will, bequeathed his library of 4,000 volumes to the University and left instruction for the purchase of land whose yielding would provide £100 a year for the founding of a professorship. One of the requirements in Lucas' will was that the holder of the professorship should not be active in the church. Isaac Newton would later appeal to King Charles II that this requirement excused him from taking holy orders, which was compulsory for all Fellows of the University at that time, but which would have been incompatible with his Arian beliefs. The King supported Newton and excused all holders of the professorship, in perpetuity, from the requirement to take holy orders.
"All undergraduates were required to attend the Lucasian lectures starting in their third year. The Lucasian Chair celebrated the 330th anniversary of its founding December 1993."
|Professor||Life Dates||Chair Dates||Specialty|
|Isaac Barrow||1630-1677||1664-1669||Classics and Mathematics|
|Sir Isaac Newton||1642-1727||1669-1702||Mathematics and Physics|
|Isaac Milner||1750-1820||1798-1820||Mathematics and Chemistry|
|Sir George Airy||1801-1892||1826-1828||Astronomy|
|Charles Babbage||1792-1871||1828-1839||Mathematics and Computing|
|Sir George Stokes||1819-1903||1849-1903||Physics and Fluid Mechanics|
|Sir Joseph Larmor||1857-1942||1903-1932||Physics|
|Sir M. James Lighthill||1924-1998||1969-1980||Fluid Mechanics|
|Stephen Hawking||1942-||1980-2009||Theoretical Physics|
|Michael Green||-||2009-||String Theory|
"The Royal Society of London and the Lucasian Chair have had a strong connection from their earliest days. Founded only a few years before the Lucasian Chair, the Society has contributed a substantial amount to the advancement of science since its founding in 1660. One of the great contributions has been its journal Philosophical Transactions. All holders of the Chair have been members of the Royal Society except three: William Whiston, Thomas Turton and Joshua King. William Whiston was kept out by Newton because of the heresy problem. Turton put his efforts into religion and not mathematics, placing himself outside of the Society's interest. King never did any work that would have qualified him for membership. Isaac Newton, George Airy, and George Stokes were presidents of the Royal Society. Airy, Stokes, Joseph Larmor, and M. James Lighthill were vice-presidents; and Stokes, Larmor, and Lighthill were secretaries. The Royal Society recognizes individuals by awarding medals. Its Copley Medal is its highest honor and has been given to Edward Waring, Airy, Stokes, Larmor, and Paul Dirac. The Royal Medal has been given to Airy, Larmor, and Dirac, the Rumford Medal to Stokes and the Hughes Medal to Stephen Hawking."
"Besides the Royal Society, there have been many awards, prizes, honors and other recognitions. Paul Dirac won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1933. Newton, Stokes and Larmor represented Cambridge University in parliament. Besides Newton, Airy, Stokes, Larmor and Lighthill were all knighted."
"This century started out with William Whiston, a very vocal mathematician, taking the Chair in 1703. He published his religious works in English, thereby increasing his audience and his visibility beyond the confines of the ivory tower. This visibility coupled with his beliefs resulted in his being labeled as a heretic and eventually he was ejected from the Lucasian Chair. Religion was still a very touchy subject and conformity was important. In the scientific area, Whiston published his own edition of Euclid, works on astronomy, earth science, longitude and was an expert on Newton. He established the tradition of teaching Newton's work at Cambridge. His religious work covered prophecy, Primitive Christianity, biblical history and explanations of biblical events, such as the great flood, using science especially astronomy. He published close to one hundred books and papers."[Farrell 1980]
"Whiston was followed by Nicolas Saunderson in 1711, who spent his time teaching algebra. It was said that he was preferred for the Lucasian Chair because he had no religion, following Whiston, who had too much."
"The current holder of the post is the theoretical physicist Michael Green. He was appointed in October 2009, succeeding Stephen Hawking who retired in September 2009, in the year of his 67th birthday, as required by the University. Hawking now holds the position of Emeritus Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. The holder of the professorship has traditionally been a theoretical physicist rather than a pure mathematician."
"In 1850 the first Royal Commission to reform the universities was established and in 1871, the religious tests for university entrance were finally eliminated."