Barlow, Peter

SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
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b. 13 October 1776 Norwich, England
d. 1 March 1862 Kent, England
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English mathematician, physicist and optician.
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Barlow had little formal academic education, but by his own efforts rectified this deficiency. His contributions to various periodicals ensured that he became recognized as a man of considerable scientific understanding. In 1801, through competitive examination, he became Assistant Mathematics Master at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and some years later was promoted to Professor. He resigned from this post in 1847, but retained full salary in recognition of his many public services.
He is remembered for several notable achievements, and for some experiments designed to overcome problems such as the deviation of compasses in iron ships. Here, he proposed the use of small iron plates designed to overcome other attractions: these were used by both the British and Russian navies. Optical experiments commenced around 1827 and in later years he carried out tests to optimize the size and shape of many parts used in the railways that were spreading throughout Britain and elsewhere at that time.
In 1814 he published mathematical tables of squares, cubes, square roots, cube roots and reciprocals of all integers from 1 to 10,000. This volume was of great value in ship design and other engineering processes where heavy numerical effort is required; it was reprinted many times, the last being in 1965 when it had been all but superseded by the calculator and the computer. In the preface to the original edition, Barlow wrote, "the only motive which prompted me to engage in this unprofitable task was the utility that I conceived might result from my labour… if I have succeeded in facilitating abstruse arithmetical calculations, then I have obtained the object in view."
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS 1823; Copley Medal (for discoveries in magnetism) 1825. Honorary Member, Institution of Civil Engineers 1820.
Bibliography
1811, An Elementary Investigation of the Theory of Numbers.
1814, Barlow's Tables (these have continued to be published until recently, one edition being in 1965 (London: Spon); later editions have taken the integers up to 12,500).
1817, Essay on the Strength of Timber and Other Materials.
Further Reading
Dictionary of National Biography.
FMW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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