George Darwin

Sir George Howard Darwin
Sir George Howard Darwin
Born George Howard Darwin
(1845-07-09)9 July 1845
Down House, Downe, Kent, England
Died 7 December 1912(1912-12-07) (aged 67)
Cambridge, England
Nationality British
Alma mater St John's College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Awards Smith's Prize (1868)
Royal Medal (1884)
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1892)
Copley Medal (1911)
Scientific career
Fields Astronomy and mathematics
Academic advisors Edward John Routh
Notable students Ernest William Brown
E. T. Whittaker

Sir George Howard Darwin, KCB, FRS, FRSE (9 July 1845 – 7 December 1912)[1] was an English barrister and astronomer.


George Darwin was born at Down House, Kent, the second son and fifth child of Charles Darwin and Emma Darwin.

From the age of 11 he studied under Charles Pritchard at Clapham Grammar School, and entered St John's College, Cambridge, in 1863, though he soon moved to Trinity College,[2] where his tutor was Edward John Routh. He graduated as second wrangler in 1868, when he was also placed second for the Smith's Prize and was appointed to a college fellowship. He earned his M.A. in 1871.[2] He was admitted to the bar in 1872, but returned to science.[2] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1879 and won their Royal Medal in 1884 and their Copley Medal in 1911.[3] He delivered their Bakerian Lecture in 1891 on the subject of "tidal prediction".

In 1883 Darwin became Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He studied tidal forces involving the Sun, Moon, and Earth, and formulated the fission theory of Moon formation.[4]

Darwin was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and won the Gold Medal of the RAS in 1892. From 1899–1901 he served as President of the RAS. The RAS founded a prize lectureship in 1984 and named it the George Darwin Lectureship in Darwin's honour.

He was an invited speaker in the International Congress of Mathematicians 1908, Rome on the topic of "Mechanics, Physical Mathematics, Astronomy."[5] As President of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, he also gave the Introductory Address to the Congress in 1912 on the character of pure and applied mathematics.[6]

He received the degree of Doctor mathematicae (honoris causa) from the Royal Frederick University on 6 September 1902, when they celebrated the centennial of the birth of mathematician Niels Henrik Abel.[7][8]


Darwin married Martha (Maud) du Puy, the daughter of Charles du Puy of Philadelphia, in 1884; his wife was a member of the Ladies Dining Society in Cambridge, with 11 other members.

She died on 6 February 1947. They had three sons and two daughters:

  • Gwen Raverat (1885–1957), artist.
  • Sir Charles Galton Darwin (1887–1962), physicist and applied mathematician.
  • Margaret Elizabeth Darwin (1890–1974), married Sir Geoffrey Keynes.
  • William Robert Darwin (1894–1970)
  • Leonard Darwin (1899–1899)

George and Maud Darwin bought Newnham Grange, Cambridge in 1885. The Darwins extensively remodelled the house. Since 1962 the Grange has been part of Darwin College, Cambridge.

He is buried in Trumpington Extension Cemetery in Cambridge with his son Leonard and his daughter Gwen (Raverat), his wife Lady Maud Darwin was cremated at Cambridge Crematorium; his brothers Sir Francis Darwin and Sir Horace Darwin and their respective wives are interred in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground.



  • public domain "Tides". Encyclopædia Britannica (9th ed.). 1875–1889.
  • The tides and kindred phenomena in the solar system (Boston, Houghton, 1899)
  • Problems connected with the tides of a viscous spheroid (London, Harrison and Sons, 1879–1882)
  • Scientific papers (Volume 1): Oceanic tides and lunar disturbances of gravity (Cambridge : University Press, 1907)[9][10]
  • Scientific papers (Volume 2): Tidal friction and cosmogony. (Cambridge : University Press, 1908)[9]
  • Scientific papers (Volume 3): Figures of equilibrium of rotating liquid and geophysical investigations. (Cambridge : University Press, 1908)
  • Scientific papers (Volume 4): Periodic orbits and miscellaneous papers. (Cambridge : University Press, 1911)
  • Scientific papers (Volume 5) Supplementary volume, containing biographical memoirs by Sir Francis Darwin and Professor E. W. Brown, lectures on Hill's lunar theory, etc... (Cambridge : University Press, 1916)
  • The Scientific Papers of Sir George Darwin. 1907. Cambridge University Press (rep. by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00449-7)



  1. GRO Register of Deaths: DEC 1912 3b 552 CAMBRIDGE – George H. Darwin, aged 67
  2. 1 2 3 "Darwin, George Howard (DRWN863GH)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  4. Sir George Darwin
  5. "ICM Plenary and Invited Speakers since 1897". International Congress of Mathematicians.
  6. Hobson, E. B. and A. E. H. Love, eds. (1913). Proceedings of the Fifth International Congress of Mathematicians (Cambridge, 22-28 August 1912). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 33–36.
  7. "Foreign degrees for British men of Science". The Times (36867). London. 8 September 1902. p. 4.
  8. "Honorary doctorates from the University of Oslo 1902-1910". (in Norwegian)
  9. 1 2 Brown, Ernest W. (1909). "Review: Scientific Papers, by George Howard Darwin". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 16 (2): 73–78. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1909-01862-2.
  10. "Review: Scientific Papers. Vol. I by Sir George Howard Darwin". The Athenaeum (4196): 386. March 28, 1908.
  • Works by George Darwin at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about George Darwin at Internet Archive
  • O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "George Darwin", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews .
  • George Howard Darwin at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  • "The Genesis of Double Stars" – by George Darwin, from A.C. Seward's Darwin and Modern Science (1909).
  • "Archival material relating to George Darwin". UK National Archives. Edit this at Wikidata
  • details of correspondence
  • Trinity College Chapel memorial
  • George Darwin at Find a Grave
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