George Green, mathematician. 1793 - 1841
Born in Sneinton, just outside Nottingham, George Green was the son of a miller best known for his development of what has become known as Green's theorem. He was largely self-taught, though fortunate enough to attend a local academy, where one Robert Goodacre (a man who encouraged scientific enquiry) worked with him. This education was, however, short-lived, lasting about a year, as his family's financial circumstances forced him to return to work in the family business.
Although later gaining a degree at Cambridge, he was an autodidact, spending time studying in his room at home. Later, in 1828, his "An Essay on the Application of Mathematical Analysis to Electricity and Magnetism" was published, covering the mathematical foundations of gravitation, electricity and magnetism. His work provided a foundation on which others built the present-day theory of electromagnetism.
However, not until some 20 years after its publication (only 51 copies were purchased), did his work gain recognition, through Lord Kelvin, who took it to Europe to publish it. His work represents the first attempts to apply mathematical theory to electrical phenomena, and was certainly a breakthrough in both physics and mathematics.
Green also published papers on hydrodynamics, optics and the reflection and refraction of sound (as used in modern-day ultrasound scanning), work which underpins much of what we consider to be recent developments.
He died in 1841 of miller's disease, congestion of the lungs from flour dust, and was buried in his local church, St. Stephen's, a hundred yards from the family's windmill, which still stands. The mill has recently been restored, and is a scientific museum and education centre.