This grave was not located by the Cambridge Family History Society Survey.
The monument for Arthur Cayley, in the parish of St Mary the Great, was a headstone that reportedly disappeared sometime in the 1980s. However the grave register for St Mary the Great places the grave site east of the east path in the south of the parish. In 2021 we were sent a photo of the headstone after it had fallen which we have been given permission to reproduce here. The broken stump can still be seen.
In Affectionate Remembrance
Of ARTHUR CAYLEY. Sc D
Sadleirian Professor of Pure Mathematics
in the University of Cambridge
and fellow of Trinity College
Born Aug 16 1821
Died Jan 26 1895
2 lines illegible
………… SUSAN CAYLEY
Born [18 Jan 1831
Died [27 May 1923]
Arthur Cayley (16 August 1821 – 26 January 1895)
Arthur was born in Richmond, London and was the son of Henry and Maria Antonia (née Doughty) Cayley. His mother had been born in St Petersburg, and he spent his first seven years of his life living in Russia where Henry Cayley ran a trading business. The family returned to live in England in 1829 and lived at Blackheath. Arthur was sent to a private school and showed an early aptitude for mathematics. His talent was recognised and he was sent to King’s College School in London aged 14. At King’s ‘his power of grasping a new subject very rapidly and of seizing of its central principles was certainly unusual’. His father had intended him to join the business, but it was decided that Arthur should study at Cambridge instead. He was a brilliant scholar who went to Trinity College aged 17 years old and was the ‘Senior Wrangler’ of his year and was also awarded the first Smith’s prize on graduation. His intellectual ability was spotted by his peers, and he was said to have been identified as a potential Senior Wrangler very early. In his third year exams he scored more than twice the marks of the second placed student and the head examiner is said to have separated him from the rest of the first class scholars by drawing a line under his name. He was made a Fellow of Trinity in October 1842, aged 21 years old and was the youngest person ever to have been appointed a Fellow. He worked as an Assistant Tutor for three years. The workload was not said to be large and enabled him to spend six months of 1843 travelling across Switzerland and Italy. He was apparently a very keen walker and climber throughout his life.
University rules of the time dictated that he could only be a Fellow for 7 years after getting his M.A, and otherwise he would need to become ordained or become a permanent academic in some role. He chose instead to become a barrister, as apparently he was unwilling to become ordained ‘though devout in spirit and an active churchman he felt no vocation for the sacred office’. He left Cambridge in 1846 and became a barrister, and in 1851 was living in Blackheath in London with his widowed mother and siblings and practising at the Bar. He academic reputation at Cambridge was known by his fellow barristers, who found him very modest indeed – ‘but if the modest, almost shy man did not display his honours he could not conceal his powers; and very soon his clearness of head, his almost intuitive grasp of the principles of any subject…his capacity for work and his power of concentration made him a favourite pupil’. He was a barrister for 14 years, but managed to write over 200 mathematical papers during that time, including some of his most famous theories.
It was said he could have formed a fearsome reputation and made a considerable fortune had he stayed at the Bar, but instead he returned to Cambridge in 1863. He was made the first Sadlerian Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University. The Professorship was not well paid, and did not involve many duties except for the necessity to ‘explain and teach the principles of pure mathematics and to apply himself to the advancement of that science’. He took up the role in June 1863 and married later that same year. Arthur married Susan Moline in Lewisham on 8 September 1863 when he was 42 years old. They had two children: Mary (1867-1950) and Henry (1870-1949). The family lived at Garden House, Coe Fen (at the bottom of Little St. Mary’s Lane, which is now the site of the Doubletree Hotel).
The marriage was said to have been an exceptionally happy one. Cayley family life was said to be a source of ‘singular happiness based upon the affection felt by its members for one another’. Until 1882 he had to deliver one course of lectures in the Michaelmas term, which left him with lots of time to study and research. From 1882 onwards he delivered a course of lectures in both the Michaelmas and Lent terms. He mostly lectured to other Fellows, and rarely to undergraduates – ‘his starting point in any subject was usually beyond the range of all other than quite advanced students’. His achievements and work were recognised both at home and abroad. Amongst his many acheivements: He was given honorary degrees by Oxford, Dublin, Edinburgh, Gottingen, Heidelberg, Leyden and Bolgona. He was made an Officer of the Legion of Honour by the French President. He was a President of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, President of the London Mathematical Society and of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1881 he was invited to lecture for six months at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. In 1882 he received the Copley Medal from the Royal Society – the highest scientific award it could give. In 1890 he gave £500 towards the new building at the University Library which was reported in the local newspapers.
For the last three years of his life Arthur Cayley’s health was poor. He took a number of trips away from Cambridge in the hope that a change of scene would make him better. Eventually it was decided that he was most at peace in Cambridge. He was said to have several attacks which left him bed bound for weeks at a time. Gradually he became housebound at Garden House. His last big attack was on 8 January 1895 ‘he seemed to be getting better when on the 21st, his strength suddenly began to collapse. He died about six o’clock on the evening of Saturday 26th January’. A funeral service was held in Trinity Chapel. The coffin was met by 300 ‘gentlemen’. The service was led by the Master of Trinity, the Bishop of Durham and the Senior Dean, and the eight pall-bearers included four professors, the Vice-Master and George Denman MP. The ambassadors of both the German and American embassies attended as did the Masters of most of the Cambridge colleges.
A prolific writer he wrote over 1,000 papers and developed c.50 theories which are still taught today. His obituary in the Cambridge Independent Press said ‘he is likely to be best remembered as the creator of an entirely new branch of mathematics by his discovery of the Theory of Invariants’. He also loved reading novels, paintings, spoke several languages, loved travelling and hiking. He was also very interested in accounts and just before his death published a pamphlet on double entry book keeping. So although he was a talented mathematician of international fame, he was also a generalist and held many interests outside of his specialist subject. He was said to have been extremely modest throughout his life, as well as very shy.
Susan Cayley (née Moline) (18 January 1831 – 27 May 1923)
Susan was born in Godalming in Surrey. She was born a Quaker, and her parents were Robert and Mary Moline. Robert Moline was a bank manager with the London and County Bank, and in 1851 she was living in Greenwich with her parents and sibings. She married Arthur Cayley when she was 32 years old.
After being widowed she continued to live at Garden House with her daughter Mary. In 1911 she was living there with Mary and being looked after by a cook, a housemaid and an ‘inbetween maid’. She died at Garden House aged 92 years old.
With thanks to Timothy Dickens for finding this photo for us.
The Royal Society of London Obituary Notices of Fellows Deceased [1895 Vol 58, paged 1-41]
ACAD – A Cambridge Alumni Database
There is Biography of Arthur Cayley by Tony Crilly – Arthur-Cayley-Mathematician-Laureate-Victorian
To see the memorial in Trinity College Chapel please click the link below.
by Sheila Plaister and Claire Martinsen