W. W. Rouse Ball


Walter William Rouse Ball[a] (14 August 1850 – 4 April 1925), known as W. W. Rouse Ball, was a British mathematician, lawyer, and fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1878 to 1905. He was also a keen amateur magician, and the founding president of the Cambridge Pentacle Club in 1919, one of the world's oldest magic societies.[1][2]

W. W. Rouse Ball
Walter William Rouse Ball

(1850-08-14)14 August 1850
Hampstead, London, England
Died4 April 1925(1925-04-04) (aged 74)
Cambridge, England
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
Known for
AwardsSmith's Prize (1874)
Scientific career
InstitutionsTrinity College, Cambridge
Doctoral studentsErnest Barnes



Born 14 August 1850 in Hampstead, London, Ball was the son and heir of Walter Frederick Ball, of 3, St John's Park Villas, South Hampstead, London. Educated at University College School, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1870, became a scholar and first Smith's Prizeman, and gained his BA in 1874 as second Wrangler. He became a Fellow of Trinity in 1875, and remained one for the rest of his life.[3]

He died on 4 April 1925 in Elmside, Cambridge,[2] and is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.[4]

He is commemorated in the naming of the small pavilion, now used as changing rooms and toilets, on Jesus Green in Cambridge.


  • A History of the Study of Mathematics at Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1889 (reissued by the publisher, 2009, ISBN 978-1-108-00207-3)
  • A Short Account of the History of Mathematics at Project Gutenberg (1st ed. 1888 and later editions). Dover 1960 republication of fourth edition: [1].
  • Cambridge Papers at Project Gutenberg (1st ed. 1918). Macmillan and Co., Limited 1918: [2].
  • String Figures; Cambridge, W. Heffer & Sons (1st ed. 1920, 2nd ed. 1921, 3rd ed. 1929, reprinted with supplements as Fun with String Figures by Dover Publications, 1971, ISBN 0-486-22809-6)

See also



  1. ^ Pronounced /ˈwɔːl.tər ˈwɪl.jəm rs bɔːl/.


  1. ^ "Pentacle Club – Magicpedia".
  2. ^ a b Whittaker, E. T. (October 1925). "Obituary: W. W. Rouse Ball". The Mathematical Gazette. 12 (178): 449–454. doi:10.1017/S0025557200247207. JSTOR 3604492.
  3. ^ "Ball, Walter William Rouse (BL870WW)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ Singmaster, David (2005). "1892 Walter William Rouse Ball, Mathematical recreations and problems of past and present times". In Grattan-Guinness, I. (ed.). Landmark Writings in Western Mathematics 1640–1940. Elsevier. pp. 653–663. ISBN 978-0-444-50871-3. See p. 658.
  5. ^ Oliver, J. E. (1892). "Review: Mathematical Recreations and Essays by W. W. Rouse Ball" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 2 (3): 37–46. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1892-00105-X.
  6. ^ Frame, J. S. (1940). "Review: Mathematical Recreations and Essays, 11th edition, by W. W. Rouse Ball; revised by H. S. M. Coxeter" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 45 (3): 211–213. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1940-07170-8.