Sir Horace Lamb FRS (1849 - 1934)

Sir Horace Lamb

Sir Horace Lamb was born at Stockport, Cheshire, England on 27th November 1849. During his early education he studied at Stockport Grammar School and Owens College, Manchester. He later went to Trinity College, Cambridge where he was Second Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos, 2nd Smith's Prizeman and elected fellow in 1872.

In 1875 Lamb was appointed as a Professor of Mathematics in the newly founded University of Adelaide. For the next 10 years the average number of students doing the arts course at Adelaide was fewer than 12; though Lamb also did some popular lecturing, his workload was relatively light. In 1878 appeared his able and original A Treatise on the Mathematical Theory of the Motions of Fluids.

In 1883 Lamb published a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society applying Maxwell's equations to the problem of oscillatory current flow in spherical conductors, an early examination of what was later to be known as the skin effect.

Outstanding contribution to science


It is for his work in fluid mechanics that Lamb is most celebrated. He wrote a book on the subject, Hydrodynamics (1895), which immediately became a classic and by 1932 had gone through six editions.

Waves in thin solid layers

Lamb is known for his description of special waves in thin solid layers. Now these waves are called Lamb waves. He wrote a paper in 1904 on the propagation of waves over the surface of an elastic solid, in which he virtually laid the whole theoretical foundations for modern mathematical seismology.

Turbulent motion of fluids

In 1932, in an address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Lamb, was wittily reported to have said: "I am an old man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic."

Motion of a liquid in two dimentions. Sir Horace Lamb Hydrodynamics (1895)
Motion of a liquid in two dimentions. Sir Horace Lamb Hydrodynamics (1895) .

Lamb at Manchester 

Lamb was appointed to the Chair of Mathematics at the Victoria University of Manchester in 1885 where he worked for over 35 years until his retirement in 1920. A room in the Alan Turing Building at the University of Manchester is named in his honour.




Further information on University of Manchester Archive.

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