Greenís mill was built in 1807 when the village of Sneinton lay about a mile outside the boundary of Nottingham. It was one of the first brick tower windmills in the country. Previous ones had generally been wooden with, at most, a brick base.
The owner Mr. Green, ran the mill with his son George, who was more interested in the manager's daughter than in milling. He never got round to marrying her, but Jane Smith bore him seven children.
Despite little formal schooling George Green had a talent for mathematics. He made himself a study on the top floor from where in 1828 at the age of 35 he published An Essay on the Application of Mathematical Analysis to the Theories of Electricity and Magnetism. This contained the first description of the mathematical functions that are now known as Greenís theorem and Greenís function, the work for which mathematicians remember him to this day. Click here to read more.
Experts like Charles Babbage recognised the importance of his paper
1833 George rented out the mill, and moved to Cambridge University where he
continued to publish his researches. Much of his cambridge work was
important but none of it rivalled the work done at the mill. In 1840 he
returned to Nottingham in ill health and he died the following year.
The mill fell into disuse in the 1860ís, the victim of competition from steam power, and it remained derelict until about 1924 when it came into the ownership of Mr. Oliver Hind a local solicitor. He put up a plaque to George, made the mill weatherproof, and let it to H Gell and Co., manufacturers of furniture polish.
Gell's polish was by all accounts pretty successful until a
fire at the mill in 1947. It lay
derelict again until 1974 when Professor Lawrie Challis of the Physics
department, Nottingham University, started campaigning for its restoration and
set up the George Green memorial Fund. The
fund acquired the mill and handed it over to the City of Nottingham together
with £20,000 towards restoration. Progress
was slow, but it was eventually completed in 1986.
The working mill is now owned and run by Nottingham City Council Museums
Department and, together with an adjacent visitor centre, is open to the public.
Admission is free.
George Greenís reputation as a mathematician has steadily increased since his death. In 1993 the plaque below left (see the windmill) was placed in Westminster Abbey near Isaac Newtonís grave and similar memorials to Michael Faraday, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) and James Clerk-Maxwell. The same year, the plaque on the right was placed in St Stephenís church Sneinton where he is buried. Dr John Polkinghorne delivered the sermon. Click here to read it.
Click here for some modern pictures of the mill
Jim Thornton 24 Feb 2005
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