Robert Simson, West Kilbride’s Favorite Son

In West Kilbride, there exists a breathtaking structure, one of the oldest residences in the town and surrounding areas. A beautiful mansion, dating back to the start of the second half of the 17th century, Kirktonhall House is the area’s premier historical point. It was the birthplace of famed mathematician Robert Simson, of whom there is a monument nearby erected.

Robert Simson was a man born into a family that had his path decided for him. As many other families did in that era, the children were expected or generally followed in the footsteps of their fathers, or entered professions guided by their families. Robert Simson was no different. He was originally intended to enter the church. Logic was too string within him though and he decided on pursuing mathematics via university in Glasgow, where he gained his degree.

Naturally inclined towards numbers and logic, Simson caught wind of a possible chair position at the Glasgow University. Inclined to pursue that opportunity, he decided to move to London and study for another year. Upon his return to Glasgow, he was given the position of professor of mathematics at the university. He held this position for 50 years.

His work consisted of early critiques and analysis of many of the worlds earliest practitioners of mathematics and those who were published in the field of geometry itself. His first published work, in 1723, was a critique on Euclid’s Porisms. Between his first publication and 1749 he had 5 greatly known and popular works under his belt, and was continuing on with more. A multi volume work on Euclid authored by Simsin was showcased in 1756. This volume became the standard text that was used on the subject during that era..

Some of his work on Apollonius and Euclid were restored and reproduced for private consumers and buyers, after his death. They were popular even then and the market had a steady demand for the mathematicians writings. Having had such an influence, a part of the triangle is sometimes granted a name in his remembrance and honor; the pedal line. Sometimes called the Simpson Line, it’s done so in his honor for all the work he had published and the impact he had on the mathematics community.

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