George Green was 14 years old when his father built the windmill and for most of the rest of his life George worked in the windmill. But George Green was also a brilliant mathematician and physicist. He devised new ways of doing mathematics which he used to make many discoveries about such things as electricity, magnetism, light, sound and wave motion. His mathematics – still called Green’s Theorem and Green’s function – are used today by scientists and engineers all over the world working with computers, lasers, satellite communications. Research scientists trying to understand the gravitational field of the Earth and sub-atomic particles, for example, use his mathematics.
Remarkably George Green had only 14 months at school, leaving when he was only ten years old to work in his father’s bakery and later in the windmill. In 1828 this self-taught genius published his greatest scientific work where he devised a completely new way of using mathematics to understand electricity and magnetism. Five years later he became a student at Caius College in Cambridge; he was forty years old. After taking his degree in mathematics he became a Fellow of the college where he did more research and published more scientific papers. But his health failed and he returned to Nottingham, to his partner Jane Green and their seven children. He died in 1841 at the age of only 47 years. He is buried at St Stephen’s church, almost within the shadow of his windmill.
In 1993, the bicentenary of his birth, George Green achieved the honour he so richly deserved when a memorial plaque was dedicated in Westminster Abbey.