Lord Kelvin: 2nd Wrangler (or Originality Intelligence)

Source: Clerk Maxwell Foundation, Jan 2008

The Tripos was not without its amusing anecdotes. One concerns Lord Kelvin. He was undoubtedly the best and most original mathematician of his year and thought he was a ‘dead cert’ for Senior Wrangler.  He said to one of the college servants on the day the Tripos results were published “Oh, just run down to the Senate House, will you, and see who is Second Wrangler”.

When the servant returned he said “You, Sir”.

Lord Kelvin had been beaten by Stephen Parkinson, later President of St. John’s College who, although not possessing great originality in mathematics was highly intelligent and had schooled himself to perfection in the executional skills of solving Tripos problems at speed .

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