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Colin Maclaurin


Colin Maclaurin born in February 1698 in Kilmodan, Scotland, and died on June 14, 1746 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was born in Kilmodan where his father was the parish minister. The village (population 387 in 1904) is on the Ruel river and the church is in Glendauel. He was a student in Glasgow. He became professor of mathematics at Marischal College, Aberdeen, from 1717 to 1725 and then at the University of Edinburgh from 1725 to 1745.

He has done remarkable work in geometry, particularly studying flat curves. He wrote an important memory in the so-called tidal theory. Maclaurin was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1719 and in 1724 was awarded the Academy of Sciences for his work on impacting bodies. In 1740 he was awarded another Academy of Sciences award for studying the tides. This award was given to Maclaurin, Euler and Daniel Bernoulli.

Maclaurin's first major work was the Organic Geometry… published in 1720.

In 1742 he published his 2-volume Treatise, the first systematic exposition of Newton's methods written as a response to Berkeley's attack on calculus for his lack of rigorous foundations. This Treatise is a major 763-page work, praised by those who read it, but surprisingly of little influence.

Maclaurin appealed to the geometric methods of the ancient Greeks and to Archimedes' method of exhaustion. In his Treatise, Maclaurin uses the special case of Taylor's series, now named after him (recognizing Taylor). Maclaurin also gave the integral test for the convergence of an infinite series. He investigates in his Treatise the mutual attraction of two ellipsoids of revolution as an application of methods.

Maclaurin played an active role in the defense of Edinburgh during the Jacobite rebellion in 1745. When the city fell Maclaurin fled to York and he died the following year in Edinburgh.

Maclaurin's Treaty on Algebra was published in 1748, two years after his death. Other work reporting on Mr. Isaac Newton's findings remained incomplete at his death but was published later.