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James Joseph Sylvester

© Rabbi Eli Brackman

James Joseph Sylvester was born 3 Spetember, 1814, in London, as James Joseph, and was an English Mathematician. He added the name Sylvester when his brother emigrated to the USA requiring a proper surname. He was born into a Jewish family and his father's name was Abraham Joseph.

In 1831, Sylvester matriculated as a student at St John's College, Cambridge. However, although he took the tripos examination in 1837, he did not graduate in that year as he refused, being Jewish, to sign up to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England before graduating.

He made fundamental contributions to Matrix theory, invariant theory, number theory, partition theory and combinatorics.

He played a leadership role in American mathematics in the later half of the 19th century as a professor at the John Hopkins University and as founder of the American Journal of Mathematics.

In 1883, he returned to England to take up the Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford University, which he held until he retired in 1892 to London. He passed away on March 15, 1897.

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