W. W. Rouse Ball

W. W. Rouse Ball books and biography


W. W. Rouse Ball


W.W. Rouse Ball
Born August 14, 1850(1850-08-14)
Hampstead, London, England
Died April 4, 1925 (aged 74)
Elmside, Cambridge, England
Residence UK
Nationality English
Field Mathematician
Alma mater University College London
University of Cambridge
Academic advisor   none
Notable students   Ernest Barnes
Known for Tessellations, magic squares

Walter William Rouse Ball (14 August 1850–4 April 1925) was a British mathematician, lawyer and a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge from 1878 to 1905.



He was the only son of Walter Frederick Ball. After attending school in London, he entered University College, London, where he studied mathematics, logic, and moral philosophy. His performance in mathematics was outstanding, and he was awarded the Gold Medal in that subject. After graduating from University College, he matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1871. Three years later he was Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos (which means that he was ranked second in the list of those awarded First Class degrees).

In 1874, the year he sat the Tripos, he was also first Smith's prizeman, and in the following year he was elected a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1876 he became a barrister when he was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple. He only had a short career as a barrister, which saw him practising as an equity draftsman and conveyancer, and writing Student's guide to the Bar. In 1877 he returned to teaching mathematics when he acted as deputy to William Kingdon Clifford at University College London whose health had collapsed through overwork.

In 1878 Trinity College, Cambridge, invited Ball to return as a lecturer in mathematics and, two years later, he was appointed as assistant tutor. He is best known as an historian of mathematics but he also made a large contribution in many different posts within Trinity College. He was appointed Director of Mathematical Studies at Trinity in 1891, and promoted to senior tutor in 1898. Also in 1898 he became chairman of the College Council and he acted as moderator of the Mathematical Tripos on a number of occasions. He also held posts within the wider university administration including sitting on the University Financial Board. Outside the University of Cambridge he also undertook a number of important duties, including being representative of the University on the Borough Council and various other bodies. He was also a governor of Westminster School and of The Perse School.


  • A Short Account of the History of Mathematics (1st ed. 1888 and later editions)
  • Mathematical Recreations and Essays (1st ed. 1892; later editions with H.S.M. Coxeter)
  • A History of the First Trinity Boat Club (1908)

See also

  • Martin Gardner

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