Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Stewart, Matthew

  • Alan W. Hirshfeld
Reference work entry

BornRothesay, (Strathclyde), Scotland, January 1717

DiedCatrine, (Strathclyde), Scotland, 23 January 1785

Matthew Stewart is remembered primarily for an attempt to deduce the Sun’s distance by purely geometrical means. Son of Reverend Dugald Stewart, minister of the parish of Rothesay, and Janet Bannatyne, Stewart received his early education on the Scottish Isle of Bute, then entered the University of Glasgow in 1734, intending to follow his father’s wishes by pursuing an ecclesiastical career.

At Glasgow, Stewart turned to mathematics while studying with Robert Simson, with whom he developed a lifelong friendship. Simson’s field of study was ancient geometry, specifically an attempt to reconstruct both  Apollonius’s Loci Planiand Euclid’s lost three-volume work on porisms. (A porism is essentially a geometrical proposition intermediate between a theorem and a problem; such a proposition, depending on the starting point, is either impossible or possible in an infinite number of...

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Selected References

  1. Playfair, John (1788). “Account of Matthew Stewart, D. D.” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1, pt. 1: 57–76.Google Scholar
  2. Sneddon, Ian N. (1976). “Stewart, Matthew.” In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. Vol. 13, pp. 54–55. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MassachusettsDartmouthUSA