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Colin Maclaurin
Colin Maclaurin (/məˈklɔːrən/; Scottish Gaelic: Cailean MacLabhruinn;
Colin Maclaurin
February 1698 – 14 June 1746)[1] was a Scottish mathematician who made
important contributions to geometry and algebra.[2] The Maclaurin series,
a special case of the Taylor series, is named after him.

Owing to changes in orthography since that time (his name was originally
rendered as “M‘Laurine”[3]), his surname is alternatively written
MacLaurin.[4]

Contents
Early life
Academic career
Contributions to mathematics Colin Maclaurin (1698–1746)

Personal life Born February 1698


Notable works Kilmodan, Cowal,
See also
Argyll, Scotland

References Died 14 June 1746 (aged


Sources 48)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Further reading
Residence Scotland
Nationality Scottish
Early life Citizenship Great Britain
Maclaurin was born in Kilmodan, Argyll. His father, Reverend and Alma mater University of Glasgow
Minister of Glendaruel John Maclaurin, died when Maclaurin was in
Known for Euler–Maclaurin
infancy, and his mother died before he reached nine years of age. He was
formula
then educated under the care of his uncle, the Reverend Daniel Maclaurin,
Maclaurin's inequality
minister of Kilfinan.
Maclaurin series
Maclaurin spheroid
Academic career Integral test for
convergence
At eleven, Maclaurin entered the University of Glasgow. He graduated MA
three years later by defending a thesis on the Power of Gravity, and Awards Grand Prize of the
remained at Glasgow to study divinity until he was 19, when he was elected French Academy of
professor of mathematics in a ten-day competition at the Marischal College Sciences
in the University of Aberdeen. This record as the world's youngest Scientific career
professor endured until March 2008, when the record was officially given Fields Mathematician
to Alia Sabur.[5]
Institutions Marischal College,
In the vacations of 1719 and 1721, Maclaurin went to London, where he Aberdeen
became acquainted with Sir Isaac Newton, Dr Benjamin Hoadly, Samuel University of
Clarke, Martin Folkes, and other philosophers. He was admitted a member Edinburgh
of the Royal Society. Academic Robert Simson
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In 1722, having provided a substitute for his class at Aberdeen, he travelled advisors
on the Continent as tutor to George Hume, the son of Alexander Hume, Notable Robert Adam
2nd Earl of Marchmont. During their time in Lorraine, he wrote his essay students
on the percussion of bodies (Demonstration des loix du choc des corps),
which gained the prize of the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1724. Upon the death of his pupil at Montpellier,
Maclaurin returned to Aberdeen.

In 1725, Maclaurin was appointed deputy to the mathematical professor at Edinburgh, James Gregory (brother of
David Gregory and nephew of the esteemed James Gregory), upon the recommendation of Isaac Newton. On 3
November of that year Maclaurin succeeded Gregory, and went on to raise the character of that university as a school
of science. Newton was so impressed with Maclaurin that he had offered to pay his salary himself.

Contributions to mathematics
Maclaurin used Taylor series to characterize maxima, minima, and points
of inflection for infinitely differentiable functions in his Treatise of
Fluxions. Maclaurin attributed the series to Taylor, though the series was
known before to Newton and Gregory, and in special cases to Madhava of
Sangamagrama in fourteenth century India.[6] Nevertheless, Maclaurin
received credit for his use of the series, and the Taylor series expanded
around 0 is sometimes known as the Maclaurin series (Grabiner 1997).

Maclaurin also made significant contributions to the gravitation attraction


of ellipsoids, a subject that furthermore attracted the attention of
d'Alembert, A.-C. Clairaut, Euler, Laplace, Legendre, Poisson and Gauss.
Maclaurin showed that an oblate spheroid was a possible equilibrium in Illustration of critique of De
Newton's theory of gravity. The subject continues to be of scientific fluxionibus libri duo published in
interest, and Nobel Laureate Subramanyan Chandrasekhar dedicated a Acta Eruditorum, 1747
chapter of his book Ellipsoidal Figures of Equilibrium to Maclaurin
spheroids. (Grabiner 1997)

Independently from Euler and using the same methods, Maclaurin


discovered the Euler–Maclaurin formula. He used it to sum powers of
arithmetic progressions, derive Stirling's formula, and to derive the
Newton-Cotes numerical integration formulas which includes Simpson's
rule as a special case. (Grabiner 1997)

Maclaurin contributed to the study of elliptic integrals, reducing many


intractable integrals to problems of finding arcs for hyperbolas. His work
was continued by d'Alembert and Euler, who gave a more concise
approach.(Grabiner 1997)

In his Treatise of Algebra (Ch. XII, Sect 86), published in 1748 two years
after his death, Maclaurin proved a rule for solving square linear systems
in the cases of 2 and 3 unknowns, and discussed the case of 4 unknowns.[7] Colin Maclaurin (1698–1746)
[8] This publication preceded by two years Cramer's publication of a
generalization of the rule to n unknowns, now commonly known as
Cramer's rule.

Personal life

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In 1733, Maclaurin married Anne Stewart, the daughter of Walter Stewart,


the Solicitor General for Scotland, by whom he had seven children. His
eldest son John Maclaurin studied Law, was a Senator of the College of
Justice, and became Lord Dreghorn; he was also joint founder of the Royal
Society of Edinburgh.[9]

Maclaurin actively opposed the Jacobite rising of 1745 and superintended


the operations necessary for the defence of Edinburgh against the
Highland army. Maclaurin compiled a diary of his exertions against the Colin MacLaurin Road, Edinburgh
Jacobites, both within and without the city.[10] When the Highland army
entered the city, however, he fled to York, where he was invited to stay by
the Archbishop of York.

On his journey south, Maclaurin fell from his horse, and the fatigue, anxiety, and
cold to which he was exposed on that occasion laid the foundations of dropsy. He
returned to Edinburgh after the Jacobite army marched south, but died soon after
his return.

He is buried at Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh.

Mathematician and former MIT President Richard Cockburn Maclaurin was from
the same family.

The Maclaurin Society (MacSoc), the Mathematics and Statistics Society at Glasgow
University, is named in his honour.

Colin MacLaurin Road within Edinburgh University's King's Buildings complex is


named in his honour.
Memorial, Greyfriars
Kirkyard, Edinburgh
Notable works
Some of his important works are:

Geometria Organica - 1720


De Linearum Geometricarum Proprietatibus - 1720
Treatise on Fluxions - 1742 (763 pages in two volumes. The first systematic exposition of Newton's methods.)
Treatise on Algebra - 1748 (two years after his death.)
Account of Newton's Discoveries - Incomplete upon his death and published in 1750 or 1748 (sources disagree)
Colin Maclaurin was the name used for the new Mathematics and Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics Building at
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

See also
Braikenridge–Maclaurin theorem
Trisectrix of Maclaurin

References
1. http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Extras/Turnbull_Maclaurin_1.html Turnbull lectures on Colin
Maclaurin (4 February 1947), Part I
2. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Maclaurin, Colin" (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Brit
annica/Maclaurin,_Colin). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

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3. "Colin Maclaurin: A Biographical Note" by Robin Schlapp (6 December 1946) (http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.


ac.uk/Extras/Maclaurin_EMS_notes.html). (Note that the quotation in [1] (http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~his
tory/Extras/Turnbull_Maclaurin_1.html) has been altered.)
4. (PDF) https://web.archive.org/web/20080229073702/http://www.m-a.org.uk/docs/library/2064.pdf (https://web.arch
ive.org/web/20080229073702/http://www.m-a.org.uk/docs/library/2064.pdf). Archived from the original (http://ww
w.m-a.org.uk/docs/library/2064.pdf) (PDF) on 29 February 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2008. Missing or empty
|title= (help)
5. David McNeill (1 May 2008). "University appoints world's youngest professor" (https://www.independent.co.uk/ne
ws/world/asia/university-appoints-child-prodigy-worlds-youngest-professor-818776.html). The Independent.
6. "Neither Newton nor Leibniz – The Pre-History of Calculus and Celestial Mechanics in Medieval Kerala" (https://w
eb.archive.org/web/20060806040307/http://www.canisius.edu/topos/rajeev.asp). MAT 314. Canisius College.
Archived from the original (http://www.canisius.edu/topos/rajeev.asp) on 6 August 2006. Retrieved 9 July 2006.
7. MacLaurin, Colin (1748). A Treatise of Algebra, in Three Parts (https://archive.org/details/atreatisealgebr03maclgo
og).
8. Hedman, Bruce (November 1999). "An Earlier Date for "Cramer's Rule" ". Historia Mathematica. Academic Press
Elsevier. 26 (4): 365–368. doi:10.1006/hmat.1999.2247 (https://doi.org/10.1006%2Fhmat.1999.2247).
9. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (https://www.royalsoced.org.u
k/cms/files/fellows/biographical_index/fells_indexp2.pdf) (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006.
ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
10. Maclaurin, Colin (2004), "Colin Maclaurin's 'Journal of the Forty-five' ", in Hedman, Bruce, Miscellany XIII of the
Scottish History Society Fifth Series volume 14, Edinburgh, Scotland: Lothian Print, pp. 312–322

Sources
Anderson, William, The Scottish Nation, Edinburgh, 1867, vol.VII, p. 37.
Ball, W. W. Rouse (1908). A Short Account of the History of Mathematics (http://www.maths.tcd.ie/pub/HistMath/P
eople/Maclaurin/RouseBall/RB_Maclaurin.html) (4th ed.). pp. 384–387. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
"Overview of Colin Maclaurin" (http://www.scottish-places.info/people/famousfirst829.html). Gazetteer for
Scotland. University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
Friedman, Erich. "Colin Maclaurin" (http://www.stetson.edu/~efriedma/periodictable/html/Mg.html). Periodic Table
of Mathematicians. Stetson University. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Colin Maclaurin" (http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographie
s/Maclaurin.html), MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
Sageng, Erik, 2005, "A treatise on fluxions" in Grattan-Guinness, I., ed., Landmark Writings in Western
Mathematics. Elsevier: 143-58.
Tweddle, Ian (November 1998). "The prickly genius—Colin Maclaurin (1698–1746)" (https://web.archive.org/web/
20071031133538/http://www.m-a.org.uk/docs/library/2064.pdf) (PDF). The Mathematical Gazette. Leicester:
Mathematical Association. 82 (495): 373–378. doi:10.2307/3619883 (https://doi.org/10.2307%2F3619883).
JSTOR 3619883 (https://www.jstor.org/stable/3619883). Archived from the original (http://www.m-a.org.uk/docs/lib
rary/2064.pdf) (PDF) on 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
Grabiner, Judith (May 1997). "Was Newton's Calculus a Dead End? The Continental Influence of Maclaurin's
Treatise of Fluxions" (http://scholarship.claremont.edu/pitzer_fac_pub/121) (PDF). The American Mathematical
Monthly. Mathematical Association of America. 104 (5): 393–410. doi:10.2307/2974733 (https://doi.org/10.2307%
2F2974733). JSTOR 2974733 (https://www.jstor.org/stable/2974733).

Further reading
Bruce A. Hedman, "Colin Maclaurin's quaint word problems," College Mathematics Journal 31 (2000), 286-288.
Bruneau, Olivier (2011). Colin Maclaurin, l'obstination mathématicienne d'un newtonien. Presses Universitaires de
Nancy.
Sageng, Erik (2006) [2004]. "MacLaurin, Colin". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford
University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/17643 (https://doi.org/10.1093%2Fref%3Aodnb%2F17643). (Subscription or
UK public library membership (http://www.oxforddnb.com/help/subscribe#public) required.)

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