Portsmouth Royal Dockyard School

First Principal - A Senior Wrangler

Source: http://www.clerkmaxwellfoundation.org/WranglersWhatBecame2008_1_24.pdf

James Inman (1776-1859) was an English mathematician, professor of mathematics at the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth. He was born at Tod Hole in Garsdale, the younger son of Richard Inman and Jane Hutchinson. He was educated at Sedbergh Grammar School and St John's College, Cambridge, graduating as Senior Wrangler in 1800.

He was Astronomer on HMS Investigator under Captain Matthew Flinders charting Australian waters in 1803-4. While on board the East Indiaman Warley for his return to Britain, he participated in the Battle of Pulo Auro. Here he temporarily commanded a party of Lascar pikemen. He was ordained in 1805 when he gained his MA. Three years later he received an appointment as Professor of Nautical Mathematics at the Royal Naval College. In 1821 he published Navigation and Nautical Astronomy for Seamen; these nautical tables remained in use for many years. In the third edition (1835) he introduced a new table of haversines (the term was his coinage) to simplify the calculation of distances between two points on the surface of the earth using spherical trigonometry.

At his suggestion, in 1810 the Admiralty established a School of Naval Architecture; the Admiralty also appointed Inman its first Principal. At the same time as teaching in the school and publishing mathematical texts for the use of his pupils, he translated a French text on the architecture of shipbuilding, and continued his own studies, gaining his doctorate in Divinity in 1820.

He retired in 1839, but continued living in Portsmouth until his death twenty years later. His wife Mary, daughter of Richard Williams, vicar of Oakham, Rutland, was a direct descendant of Hannah Ayscough, the mother of Sir Isaac Newton.

Footnote: Senior Wrangler. During the one hundred and fifty seven years (1753-1909) in which the results of the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos were published in order of merit and divided by class of degree into Wranglers (1st Class), Senior Optimes (2nd Class) and Junior Optimes (3rd Class), great prestige attached to those students who had come out in the top two or three places. The securing of the top position as Senior Wrangler was regarded, at the time, as the greatest intellectual achievement attainable in Britain and the Senior Wrangler was fêted well beyond Cambridge and accorded pre-eminent status among his peers - indeed years in Cambridge were often remembered in terms of who had been Senior Wrangler in that year.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Inman