CFHS code : PL347
Parish : St Paul
Inscription : In Loving Memory of ISAAC TODHUNTER DS FRS Honorary Fellow of St Johns College Cambridge b Nov 23 1820 d Mar 1 1884
Monument : Stone cross/Kerb stones
Above information from Cambridge Family History Society Survey
In Loving Memory of ISAAC TODHUNTER DS FRS Honorary Fellow of St Johns College Cambridge born November 23rd 1820 entered into rest March 1st 1884
“I heard a voice from Heaven saying ….. Blessed are the dead which die in in the Lord from Hencefoth : yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours” Rev x1v
Isaac Todhunter (23 November 1820 – 1 March 1884)
Isaac was born in Rye, Sussex and baptised at the Watch Bell Street Independent Chapel on 28 March 1821. He was the son of Rev. George and Mary (née Bower) Todhunter. His father died when he was six years old and his mother then moved to Hastings and ran a girls’ school. He left school and became an assistant school master at a school in Peckham, and also attended evening classes at London University. Isaac won a scholarship to study mathematics at University College London and gained a B.A. in 1842 and an M.A. in 1844. His father has been a dissenting minister and Isaac had to change his religion to Church of England in order to go to Cambridge Univeristy.
In 1844 he went up to St. John’s College, Cambidge and was senior wrangler and Smith’s prizeman in 1848 (a prize also won by George Gabriel Stokes and Arthur Cayley). He was elected a fellow in 1849 and taught at St. John’s for fifteen years. He resigned as a fellow in 1864 in order to marry Louisa Anna Maria Davies (1834-1918) on 13 August 1864 at St. Paul’s Church, Cambridge. Louisa was the daughter of Vice Admiral George Davies and the couple had five children: Edward Maurice (1867-1938), Arthur Louis (1868-1952), Agnes Florence (1870-1942), Francis Gerald (1872-1938) and Major Herbert William (1875-1936). The family lived at6 Trumpington Road (1871) and then at 6 Brookside (at least 1881 onwards).
Isaac later worked as a mathematics lecturer and wrote books. The books published by Macmillan included titles such as Mr Todhunter’s Euclid of Colleges, Mr Todhunter’s Mechanics for Beginners, Mr Todhunter’s Plane Triganometery and Mr Todhunter’s Treatise on Conic Sections. The many books he wrote were considered the standard school texts for several years and were translated into many languages.
He won the Adams Prize in 1871 for an essay entitled ‘Researches on the Calculus of Variations’. His interests were wider than just mathematics and in 1876 he wrote ‘An Account of the Writings of William Whewell, D.D., Master of Trinity College with Selections from his Literary and Scientific Correspondence’. He was made Doctor in Science and Doctor in Letters as well as appointed as an honoury Fellow by St. John’s College.
In November 1874 Isaac appeared as a witness at the trial of Frederick Kemp. Kemp was a labourer from Newton, whose wife worked in service for the Todhunter family. The court heard he came to 6 Brookside, knocked and ‘threatened to ‘do for’ complainant, also using obscene language’. Isaac testified that ‘he was disturbed about nine o’clock by a most violent kicking and knocking at the door. He went down and found defendant who threatened him by words and gestures. He fetched a policeman and give him in charge’. Frederick Kemp denied threatening Isaac but was found guily and ordered to pay £20 suretie and keep the peace for two months.
It has been written about him ‘Todhunter’s life was mainly that of the studious recluse. His sustained industry and methodical distribution of his time enabled him to acquire a wide acquaintance with general and foreign literature; and besides being a sound Latin and Greek scholar, he was familiar with French, German, Spanish, Italian, and also Russian, Hebrew, and Sanscrit. He was well versed in the history of philosophy, and on three occasions acted as examiner for the moral sciences tripos. His habits and tastes were singularly simple; and to a gentle kindly disposition he united a high sense of honour, a warm sympathy with all that was calculated to advance the cause of genuinely scientific study in the university, and considerable humour’.
Isaac Todhunter was ill for the last couple of years with an eye disease and was paralysed for the last few weeks of his life. He died at Brookside aged 63 years. A mural and medallion portrait were placed in the ante-chapel of St. John’s College by Louisa Todhunter. Also his books were donated to the college.
More about Isaac Todhunter’s mathematical legacy can be read here.
Louisa Todhunter moved to Devon (1891) and then Hampstead (1911). She died in Edgware and is buried in St. Margaret’s Churchyard, Edgware.
by Claire Martinsen
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