George Salmon


Life
1819-1904; b. 25 Sept.; son of a Michael Salmon, linen merchant and his wife (née Weekes, a clergyman’s dg.); ed. Hamblin and Porter school, Cork; mat. 1833; grad. 1st Snr. Mod, Maths. and Physics, 1838; Fellow, 1841; lecturer in divinity and mathematics; MRIA, 1843; deacon, 1844; ord. 1845; m. Francis Anne Salvador (d.1878), dg. Church of England minister, 1844; lived on Wellington Rd., Dublin; elected Chancellor St. Patrick’s Cathedral; D.D., 1859; succeeded Charles Gravers as Erasmus Smith Prof. on Mathematics, TCD; much influenced by Jean-Victor Poncelet’s Traité des proprieétés projective des figures (1822), which outlined basis of projective geometric;
 
Salmon issued his best-known work, A Treatise on Conic Sections (1848), intended for students in a limited . edn. of 500 copies, to be followed by five enlarged editions; his Treatise on the Higher Plane Curves (1852) was issued in 750 copies. with a 2nd edn. in 1873, incl. additions by Arthur Cayley; his Lessons Introductory to the Modern Higher Algebra (1859) was first published in a printing of 500 copies and reissued in edns. revised by Cayley and Sylvester up to 1866 after Salmon had retired from active mathematical research;
 
also issue A Treatise on the Analytic Geometry of Three Dimensions (1862); he was elected Regius Professor of Divinity, in succession to Samuel Butcher, 22 Dec. 1866; he was intensely active in the so-called ‘revision’ [viz., revisionist] controversy between evangelical and high-church elements in the Church of Ireland after disestablishment, 1867, and issued Non-Miraculous Christianity (1881); Introduction to the New Testament (1885), and A Historical Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, by George Salmon, in Ecclesiastical Record, 3rd Ser., Vol. VII, (Dublin: Fowler 1886), based on a lecture course; Lectures The Infallibility of the Church (1889); The Human Element in the Gospels (post. 1907), as well as Lives of the Saints: A Lecture (1863);
 
he was provost of TCD, 1888-1902 [var. 1904] d. 22 Jan. 1904; bur. Mount Jerome, with family members; survived by two children of six born; donated monies to the College for foundation of Salmon fund; there is a seated statue by John Hughes in marble at Front Square, TCD - which was restored after severe maltreatment by undergraduates; also a portrait by Benjamin Constant at TCD [senior common-room]; Salmon was related to Edward Dowden through his mother’s family; he is said to have resisted admission of women to Trinity College, Dublin; a gt.-gr.-dg., Jane Marriott, attended the University in the late 1960s. DIW ODNB DIB [FDA] OCIL

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Criticism
Donald Akenson, The Church of Ireland: Ecclesiastical Reform and Revolution 1800-1885 (Yale UP 1971); Rod Gow, ’George Salmon 1819-1904’, in Ken Houston, ed., Creators of Mathematics: The Irish Connection (Dublin: UCD Press 2000), pp.39-45.

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Commentary

F. Zimmerman, S.J., review of A Historical Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, by George Salmon, in Ecclesiastical Record, 3rd Ser., Vol. VII, (Dublin: Fowler 1886), pp.663-68.
 
A DEFENCE of the traditional belief in the authenticity and integrity of the Sacred Books of the New Testament by a writer of such ability as Dr. Salmon must be welcome. Though his work is apologetic, he has fairly grappled with the difficulties, and refuted the objections of his opponents. Dr. Salmon is acquainted with the works of Protestant interpreters of Germany, but takes no notice of Catholic interpreters, in whose books he might have found far better arguments against the rationalistic views of the modern school of criticism than are his own [...] Dr. Salmon (p.470) gives a very good reason for this by comparing St. Paul to Xenophon, whose vocabulary was so much modified by travelling. While the first and second books of the “Hellenica” are written in pure Attic, and contain few Doricisms and lonicisms, the latter books are full of un-Attic words picked up from his changing surroundings. He also refers to Dr. Stanley-Leathes, who shows that a different vocabulary is by no means a proof of different authorship, as is seen by comparing the vocabulary of Milton’s Allegro to the Pensoroso and to Lycidas. [...] Having quoted so much of what is good in Dr. Salmon’s book, we may as well point out some of the inaccuracies and deficiencies. The historical part of the book is incomplete. We find no history of the lives of the writers, no characteristics of the men and their styles, no analyses of their books; the reader is not furnished with sufficient details so as to be able to judge for himself. The account of the origin of the Synoptic Gospels is singularly defective. [...] The assertion that the brothers of Jesus were not cousins of Our Lord, but sons of Joseph from a former marriage, is unfounded. [.. &c.]. (663-65.)
 
For longer extract, see attached.

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Gordon H. Davies, ‘Irish Thought in Science’, Richard Kearney, ed. The Irish Mind: Exploring Intellectual Traditions (Dublin: Wolfhound 1984), remarks, ‘It needs to be emphasised that ... in Salmon’s Conic Sections we see an Irish mind at work just as surely as we see de Valera’s mind at work in Ireland’s 1937 constitution’ (p.310.)

Women at Trinity”, feature (Irish Times Magazine, 17 April 2004), which shows Frances Ruane, Professor of Economics and the first woman to contest the election for Provostship in 2001, also notes that Salmon - before whose statue she is photographed - said that women would enter Trinity ‘over my dead body’.

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References
Belfast Public Library
holds A Treatise on Conic Sections (1848). Note also, Belfast Public Library holds Short View of the Families of the present Irish Nobility, by a ‘Mr. Salmon’ (1759).

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Notes
William Carleton: In “The Poor Scholar”, Carleton’s alter ego James McEvoy, is sent off to Maynooth by his old school-teacher Corcoran, who tells him he is going to ‘that country where the swallows fly in conic sections, where the magpies and turkeys confab in Latin, and the cows and bullocks will roar at you in Doric Greek.’ (Quoted in Maurice Harmon, Introduction to Carleton, Wild Goose Lodge and Other Stories, Cork: Mercier 1973, p.xiv.)

More conic sections ...
   
  [...]
The Tailor, in cutting his cloth,
    Will speak of the true conic section,
And no tailor is now such a Goth
    But he talks of his trade’s genuflection!
If you laugh at his bandy-legg’d clan,
    He calls it unhandsome detraction,
And cocks up his chin like a man,
    Though we know that he’s only a fraction!
Sing, tol de rol lol, &c, &c, &c
   
—“The March of Intellect” (first pub. in Noctes Ambrosianiae, in Blackwood's Magazine (Dec. 1825); see further under Oliver Goldsmith, Notes, infra. Salmon is too late to be considered a source but the ballad - actually by John Wilson and erroneously ascribed to Goldsmith by Colm ÓLochlainn - demonstrates that the term was in circulation in 1825, and perhaps as early as 1810.

Protestant Gothic: In “The Judge’s House” by J. S. Le Fanu, Malcolm Malcolmson throws some books at the malignant rat who pesters him in his rooms. The books in question were A Treatise on Conic Sections (1848), and William Rowan Hamilton’s Quaternions - ‘though not as effacacious as the Bible’.

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James Joyce: ‘[T]he reverend T. Salmon [sic] D.D., provost of Trinity college’ [sic] is cited as a career model (‘exemplar’) for Leopold Bloom in youth, during the cathetical section of James Joyce’s Ulysses (Bodley Head Edn. p.808).

Douglas Hyde: At the Historical Society in College, Douglas Hyde spoke on ‘Celts and Teutons’ and ‘Irish Rule in Ireland’, during 1885. In a paper entitled ‘The Attitude of the Reformed Church in Ireland’ at the Theo[logical Society], he argued that the Anglicans should sympathise with the nationalists, and was disparaged by Dr. Salmon. Hyde reported in his diary, ‘Salmon in particular said he would not have come had be known what I was going to read.’ (See Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, p.54-55). Note further that Salmon backed Hyde’s application for chair of History and English at Queens, Sept 1891. (ibid., p.150.)

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Benjamin Constant [sic] (1845-1902) is the author of a portrait of Salmon at TCD (see Anne Crookshank, Irish Portraits Exhibition, Ulster Museum 1965).

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