## Early life

**Arthur Cayle**y was born in Richmond, London, on 16 August 1821. His father, **Henry Cayley**, was a distant cousin of **George Cayley**, the aeronautics engineer innovator, and descended from an ancient Yorkshire family. He settled in Saint Petersburg, Russia, as a merchant. His mother was **Maria Antonia Doughty**, daughter of **William Doughty**. According to some writers she was Russian, but her father’s name indicates an English origin. His brother was the linguist **Charles Bagot Cayley**. **Arthur **spent his first eight years in Saint Petersburg. In 1829 his parents were settled permanently at Blackheath, London, where **Arthur **attended a private school.

At age 14, **Arthur **was sent to King’s College School. **Arthur **enjoyed complex maths problems, and the school’s master observed indications of his mathematical genius. He advised the father to educate his son not for his own business, as he had intended, but at the University of Cambridge.

At the age of 17 **Arthur **began residence at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he excelled in Greek, French, German, and Italian, as well as mathematics. The cause of the Analytical Society had now triumphed and the *Cambridge Mathematical Journal* had been instituted by **Gregory **and **Robert Leslie Ellis**. To this journal, at the age of twenty, **Arthur **contributed three papers, on subjects that had been suggested by reading the *Mécanique analytique* of **Joseph Louis Lagrange** and some of the works of Laplace.

**Arthur**‘s tutor at Cambridge was **George Peacock** and his private coach was **William Hopkins**. He finished his undergraduate course by winning the place of **Senior Wrangler** and the first **Smith’s prize**. His next step was to take the M.A. degree, and win a Fellowship by competitive examination. **Arthur **continued to reside at Cambridge University for four years and he took some pupils during this time, but his main work was the preparation of 28 memoirs to the *Mathematical Journal*.

## Career in Law

Because of the limited tenure of his fellowship it was necessary to choose a profession. **Arthur**, like **De Morgan** before him, chose law and was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, London on 20 April 1846 at the age of 24. **Arthur **made a specialty of conveyancing. It was while he was a pupil at the bar examination that he went to Dublin to hear **William Rowan Hamilton**‘s lectures on quaternions.

His friend **J. J. Sylvester**, his senior by five years at Cambridge, was then an actuary, resident in London; they used to walk together round the courts of Lincoln’s Inn, discussing the theory of invariants and covariants. During these fourteen years, **Arthur **produced between two and three hundred papers.

## Professor Cayley

Around 1860, Cambridge University’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (Newton’s chair) was supplemented by the new Sadleirian professorship, using funds bequeathed by **Lady Sadleir**, with the 42-year-old **Arthur **as its first holder. His duties were *“to explain and teach the principles of pure mathematics and to apply himself to the advancement of that science.”* **Arthur **gave up a lucrative legal practice for a modest salary, but never regretted the exchange, since it allowed him to devote his energies to the pursuit that he liked best.

**Arthur** married, settled down in Cambridge and enjoyed a home life of great happiness. **Sylvester**, his friend from his bachelor days, once expressed his envy of **Arthur**‘s peaceful family life, whereas the unmarried **Sylvester **had to fight the world all his days.

At first the Sadleirian professor was paid to lecture over one of the terms of the academic year, but the university financial reform of 1886 freed funds to extend his lectures to two terms. For many years his courses were attended only by a few students who had finished their examination preparation, but after the reform the attendance numbered about fifteen. He generally lectured on his current research topic.

As for his duty to the advancement of mathematical science, **Arthur **published a long and fruitful series of memoirs ranging over all of pure mathematics. He also became the standing referee on the merits of mathematical papers to many societies both at home and abroad.

In 1872, **Arthur **was made an honorary fellow of Trinity College and three years later an ordinary fellow, a paid position. About this time his friends subscribed for a presentation portrait. **Maxwell** wrote an address praising **Arthur**‘s principal works, including his Chapters on the Analytical Geometry of n dimensions; On the theory of Determinants; Memoir on the theory of Matrices; Memoirs on skew surfaces, otherwise Scrolls; and On the delineation of a Cubic Scroll.

In addition to his work on algebra, **Arthur **made fundamental contributions to algebraic geometry. **Arthur **and **Salmon **discovered the 27 lines on a cubic surface. **Arthur **constructed the Chow variety of all curves in projective 3-space. He founded the algebro-geometric theory of ruled surfaces. His contributions to combinatorics include counting the *n ^{n}*

^{–2}trees on

*n*labeled vertices by the pioneering use of generating functions.

In 1876, **Arthur **published a *Treatise on Elliptic Functions*. He took great interest in the movement for the university education of women. At Cambridge the first women’s colleges were Girton and Newnham. In the early days of Girton College, **Arthur **gave direct help in teaching and for some years he was chairman of the council of Newnham College, in the progress of which he took the keenest interest to the last.

In 1881, **Arthur **received from the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, where **Sylvester **was then professor of mathematics, an invitation to deliver a course of lectures. He accepted the invitation, and lectured at Baltimore during the first five months of 1882 on the subject of the *Abelian and Theta Functions*.

In 1893, **Arthur **became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

## British Association President

In 1883, **Arthur **was President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The meeting was held at Southport, in the north of England. As the President’s address is one of the great popular events of the meeting and brings out an audience of general culture, it is usually made as little technical as possible. **Arthur **took for his subject the Progress of Pure Mathematics.

## The Collected Papers

In 1889, the Cambridge University Press began the publication of **Arthur**‘s collected papers, which he appreciated very much. He edited seven of the quarto volumes himself, though suffering from a painful internal malady.

**Arthur **died on 26 January 1895 at age 74. His funeral at Trinity Chapel was attended by the leading scientists of Britain, with official representatives from as far as Russia and America.

The remainder of his papers were edited by **Andrew Forsyth**, his successor as Sadleirian professor, in total thirteen quarto volumes and 967 papers. His work continues in frequent use, cited in more than 200 mathematical papers in the 21st century alone.

**Arthur **retained to the last his fondness for novel-reading and for travelling. He also took special pleasure in paintings and architecture, and he practiced water-colour painting, which he found useful sometimes in making mathematical diagrams.