Robert Potts

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Robert Potts (1805–1885) was a British mathematician. His edition of Euclid's Elements was the standard geometry textbook for much of the 19th century. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900 Potts was the son of Robert Potts, and grandson of the head of a firm of Irish linen-weavers, was born at Lambeth in 1805. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1828 as a sizar, and graduated B.A. as twenty-fifth wrangler in 1832, proceeding M.A. in 1835. He became a successful private tutor in the university, and was a strenuous advocate of most of the university reforms that were carried in his time. He acquired wide reputation as the editor of Euclid's Elements, which he brought out in a large edition in 1845, followed in 1847 by an appendix. His school edition appeared in 1846, and was republished in 1850, 1861, 1864, and 1886; a separate edition of book i. appeared in 1884. The book had an immense circulation in the British colonies and in America, and the William and Mary College of Virginia conferred the honorary degree of LL.D. upon Potts ‘in appreciation of the excellence of his mathematical works.’ The merits of his edition of Euclid consisted in the clear arrangement and division of the component parts of the propositions, and in the admirable collection of notes. Potts died at Cambridge in August 1885.


  • I have had considerable experience in dealing with minds of low logical power, and have found that studies may be made so easy and mechanical as to render thought almost superfluous.
    • Criticising Charles Dodgson's Notes on the First Two Books of Euclid, quoted in Robin Wilson, Lewis Carroll in Numberland (2008) p. 87

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