Dear Senior Censor:
In a desultory conversation on a point connected with the dinner at our high table, you incidentally remarked to me that lobster-sauce, "though a necessary adjunct to turbot, was not entirely wholesome."
It is entirely unwholesome. I never ask for it without reluctance: I never take a second spoonful without a feeling of apprehension on the subject of possible nightmare. This naturally brings me to the subject of Mathematics, and of the accommodation provided by the University for carrying on the calculations necessary in that important branch of Science.
As Members of Convocations are called upon (whether personally, or, as is less exasperating, by letter) to consider the offer of the Clarendon Trustees, as well as every other subject of human, or inhuman, interest, capable of consideration, it has occurred to me to suggest for your consideration how desirable roofed buildings are for carrying on mathematical calculations: in fact, the variable character of the weather in Oxford renders it highly inexpedient to attempt much occupation, of a sedentary nature, in the open air.
Again it is often impossible for students to carry on accurate mathematical calculations in close contiguity to one another, owing to their mutual interference, and a tendency to general conversation: consequently these processes require different rooms in which irrepressible conversationalists, who are found to occur in every branch of Society, might be carefully and permanently fixed.
It may be sufficient for the present to enumerate the following requisites: others might be added as funds permitted.
- A very large room for calculating Greatest Common Measure. To this a small one might be attached for Least Common Multiple: this however, might be dispensed with.
- A piece of open ground for keeping Roots and practising their extraction: it would be advisable to keep Square Roots by themselves, as their corners are apt to damage others.
- A room for reducing Fractions to their Lowest Terms. This should be provided with a cellar for keeping the Lowest Terms when found, which might also be available to the general body of undergraduates, for the purpose of "keeping Terms".
- A large room, which might be darkened, and fitted up with a magic lantern, for the purpose of exhibiting Circulating Decimals in the act of circulation. This might also contain cupboards, fitted with glass-doors, for keeping the various Scales of Notation.
- A narrow strip of ground, railed off and carefully leveled, for investigating the properties of Asymptotes, and testing practically whether Parallel Lives meet or not: for this purpose it should reach, to use the expressive language of Euclid, "ever so far".
This last process, of "continually producing the Lines", may require centuries or more: but such a period, though long in the life of an individual, is as nothing in the life of the University.
As Photography is now very much employed in recording human expressions, and might possibly be adapted to Algebraical Expressions, a small photographic room would be desirable, both for general use and for representing the various phenomena of Gravity, Disturbance of Equilibrium, Resolution, etc., which affect the features during severe mathematical operations.
May I trust that you will give your immediate attention to this most important subject?
February 6, 1868.