I've read about a Lucasian Professor called Joshua King. From the Wiki page, he seems like a mysterious man to me

"Joshua King came to Cambridge from Hawkshead Grammar School. It was soon evident that the school had produced someone of importance. He became Senior Wrangler, and his reputation in Cambridge was immense. It was believed that nothing less than a second Newton had appeared. They expected his work as a mathematician to make an epoch in the science. At an early age he became president of Queens’; later, he was Lucasian Professor. He published nothing; in fact, he did no mathematical work. But as long as he kept his health, he was an active and prominent figure in Cambridge, and he maintained his enormous reputation. When he died, it was felt that the memory of such an extraordinary man should not be permitted to die out, and his papers should be published. So his papers were examined, and nothing whatever worth publishing was found."


Have any of you guys heard anything more about him? What great things had he done to merit the title of the "second Newton" (except being a Senior Wrangler, which is of course a great title to achieve by itself)? Why didn't the man of his caliber published anything? Is there a place where I can read more about his fascinating story? Thank you in advance.

Joshua King

  • $\begingroup$ Surprisingly there is nothing much on this man except wikipedia. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 18:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you really want to know, the logical person to ask is the archivist at Queens': if anything is known, it'll probably be known there. (And the moral of the story is that becoming Senior Wrangler is actually a very bad career move most of the time: it normally causes you to vanish into obscurity.) $\endgroup$
    – Chappers
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 23:40

2 Answers 2


For a profile of Joshua King as Cambridge professor and "administrator", see :


One Google page says "He was as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1839, resigning because of ill-health in 1849 having given no lectures and published only one paper".

However I remember reading 20 or 30 years ago that in times past, the only responsibility of a professor at Cambridge or Oxford was to prepare the yearly examination paper. If that is so, he may have performed his duties to a high standard.

These are the names of some of the luminaries who won the Smith's Prize after King: 1823 Airy, 1830 Heaviside, 1841 Stokes, 1842 Cayley.


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