Encyclopedia of Continuum Mechanics

Living Edition
| Editors: Holm Altenbach, Andreas Öchsner

Airy, George Biddell

  • Holm AltenbachEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-53605-6_304-1
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Keywords

George Biddell Airy Airy Stress Function Method Royal Grammar School Royal Prussian Academy American National Academy 
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George Biddell Airy (July 27, 1801, in Alnwick, Northumberland, England; †January 2, 1892, in Greenwich, England) was an English mathematician, physicist, and astronomer.

Early Years and Education

After elementary school in Hereford, Airy entered the Royal Grammar School in Colchester. One of his relatives sponsored his school education and inspired him for physics. From 1819 he studied at the Trinity College of the University of Cambridge. He was several times “the best of the year” student and finished in 1823 his studies and obtained the first Smith Prize.

Professional Career and Honors

On October 1, 1824, Airy was elected fellow of Trinity and in December 1826 was appointed Lucasian professor of mathematics in succession to Thomas Turton. This chair he held for a little more than a year, being elected in February 1828 Plumian professor of astronomy and director of the new Cambridge Observatory. In June 1835, Airy was appointed Astronomer Royal in succession to John Pond and began his long career at the national observatory which constitutes his chief title to fame. Airy retired in 1881.

In 1832, he was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1833 and again in 1846, he got the Gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1834, he became a corresponding and in 1879 a foreign member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences. In 1836, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. The Society decorated Airy in 1831 with the Copley medal and in 1845 with the Royal Medal. In 1840, he was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and in December of the same year as a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Sankt Petersburg. At the same time, he became a corresponding and in 1859 a foreign member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. From 1851, he was a foreign member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. On January 24, 1854, he entered the Prussian Order Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts as a foreign member. In 1859, he became foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1865, he was elected as a member of the American National Academy of Sciences and in 1879 of the American Philosophical Society.

Scientific Achievements

George Biddell Airy had made a lot of contributions to astronomy, optics, and mathematics (with applications to mechanics). Among them are
  • investigation of the mass of Jupiter,

  • theory of the rainbow,

  • determination of the mean density of the Earth,

  • stress function method, ...

In 1851, Airy established a new Prime Meridian at Greenwich. This line, the fourth “Greenwich Meridian,” became the definitive internationally recognized line in 1884. In 1862, Airy presented a new technique to determine the strain and stress field within a beam (called now the Airy stress function method). The method can be used to find solutions to two-dimensional problems in solid mechanics. For example, it was used by Westergaard to determine the stress and strain field around a crack tip. The method is widely used in fracture mechanics.

Cross-References

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fakultät für Maschinenbau, Institut für MechanikOtto-von-Guericke-Universität MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Holm Altenbach
    • 1
  1. 1.Fakultät für Maschinenbau, Institut für MechanikOtto-von-Guericke-Universität MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany