Duncan Sommerville
Duncan M. Y. Sommerville  

Duncan Sommerville


Born  24 November 1879 Beawar, Rajputana, India 
Died  31 January 1934 Wellington, New Zealand 
Residence  New Zealand 
Citizenship  United Kingdom 
Nationality  Scottish 
Fields  Mathematics 
Institutions  St Andrews University (1904–13) Wellington University (1913–34) 
Alma mater  St Andrews University 
Known for  Textbooks on geometry 
Duncan MacLaren Young Sommerville FRSE FRAS (1879–1934) was a Scottish mathematician and astronomer. He compiled a bibliography on nonEuclidean geometry and also wrote a leading textbook in that field. He also wrote Introduction to the Geometry of N Dimensions, advancing the study of polytopes. He was a cofounder and the first secretary of the New Zealand Astronomical Society.
Sommerville was also an accomplished watercolourist, producing a series of works of the New Zealand landscape.
The middle name 'MacLaren' is spelt using the old orthography M'Laren in some sources, for example the records of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.^{[1]}
Early life
Sommerville was born in Beawar, India where his father was employed as a missionary doctor by the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Rev Dr James Sommerville had been responsible for establishing the hospital at Jodhpur, Rajputana.
The family returned home to Scotland, where Duncan first spent 4 years at a private school in Perth, before being sent to Perth Academy. He then studied at the University of St Andrews in Fife, where in 1905 he was awarded Doctor of Science for his thesis, Networks of the Plane in Absolute Geometry. Sommerville taught at St. Andrews from 1902 to 1914.
In projective geometry the method of Cayley–Klein metrics had been used in the 19th century to model noneuclidean geometry. In 1910 Duncan wrote "Classification of geometries with projective metrics".^{[2]} The classification is described by Daniel Corey^{[3]} as follows:
 He classifies them into 9 types of plane geometries, 27 in dimension 3, and more generally 3^{n} in dimension n. A number of these geometries have found applications, for instance in physics.
In 1910 Sommerville reported^{[4]} to the British Association on the need for a bibliography on noneuclidean geometry, noting that the field had no International Association like the Quaternion Society to sponsor it.
In 1911 Sommerville published his compiled bibliography of works on noneuclidean geometry, and it received favorable reviews.^{[5]}^{[6]} In 1970 Chelsea Publishing issued a second edition which referred to collected works then available of some of the cited authors.^{[7]}
Sommerville was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1911. The following year he married Louisa Agnes Beveridge.
Work in New Zealand
In 1915 Sommerville went to New Zealand to take up the Chair of Pure and Applied Mathematics at the Victoria College of Wellington.
Duncan became interested in honeycombs and wrote "Division of space by congruent triangles and tetrahedra" in 1923.^{[8]} The following year he extended results to ndimensional space.^{[9]}
He also discovered the Dehn–Sommerville equations for the number of faces of convex polytopes.
Sommerville used geometry to describe the voting theory of a preferential ballot.^{[10]} He addressed Nanson's method where n candidates are ordered by voters into a sequence of preferences. Sommerville shows that the outcomes lie in n ! simplexes that cover the surface of an n − 2 dimensional spherical space.
When his Introduction to Geometry of N Dimensions appeared in 1929, it received a positive review from B. C. Wong in the American Mathematical Monthly.^{[11]}
Sommerville was cofounder and first secretary of the New Zealand Astronomical Society (1920). He was President of Section A of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, Adelaide (1924). In 1926 he became a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Textbooks
 1914: The Elements of NonEuclidean Geometry, William P. Milne editor, Bell's Mathematical Series for Schools and Colleges, G. Bell & Sons.
 The Elements of NonEuclidean Geometry, link from University of Michigan Historical Math Collection.
 1930: An Introduction to the Geometry of N Dimensions, New York, E. P. Dutton, (Dover Publications edition, 1958)
 1933: Analytical Conics from Google Books
 1934: Analytical Geometry of Three Dimensions. Cambridge University Press.
References
 ↑ Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF). II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 9780902198845. Retrieved 5 February 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ Proceedings of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society 28:25–41
 ↑ MR 550670
 ↑ D. Sommerville (1910) On the Need of a NonEuclidean Bibliography, Report of the British Association
 ↑ G. B. Halsted (1912) "Duncan M.Y. Sommerville", American Mathematical Monthly 19:1–4, includes portrait, MR 1517626
 ↑ G. B. Mathews (1912) Bibliography of NonEuclidean Geometry from Nature 89:266 (#2220)
 ↑ MR 270890
 ↑ Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 43:85–116
 ↑ D. Sommerville (1924) "The regular divisions of space of n dimensions and their metrical constants", Rendiconti del Circolo Matematico di Palermo 48:9–22
 ↑ D. Sommerville (1928) "Certain hyperspatial partitionings connected with preferential voting", Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society 28(1):368 to 82
 ↑ B.C. Wong (1931) "Recent publications", American Mathematical Monthly 38(5):286–7
 H.W. Turnbull (1934) "Duncan M. Y. Sommerville", Journal of the London Mathematical Society 9(4):316–18.
 B. A. Rosenfeld (1979) "The Works on Geometry of Duncan Sommerville", IstorikoMatematicheskie Issledovania, MR 550670.
External links
 O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Duncan Sommerville", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
 Obituary, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Vol. 95, pp. 330–331.
 C.J. Seelye (1974) Mathematics At Victoria In Retrospect, Notes for a talk to the Mathematics and Physics Society, from NZETC.
 Use dmy dates from January 2012
 1879 births
 1934 deaths
 20thcentury mathematicians
 People from Perth, Scotland
 People from Wellington City
 People educated at Perth Academy
 Alumni of the University of St Andrews
 Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
 Geometers
 New Zealand astronomers
 Scottish astronomers
 New Zealand historians
 Scottish historians
 New Zealand mathematicians
 Scottish mathematicians
 New Zealand painters
 Scottish watercolourists
 Victoria University of Wellington faculty
 Scottish emigrants to New Zealand
 Historians of mathematics
 Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society
 Academics of the University of St Andrews
 20thcentury Scottish painters