He was educated at Hastings, at which town his mother had opened a school after the death of his father in 1826. He became an assistant master at a school at Peckham, attending at the same time evening classes at the University College, London. In 1842 he obtained a mathematical scholarship and graduated as B.A. at London University, and was awarded the gold medal on the M.A. examination. About this time he became mathematical master at a school at Wimbledon.
In 1844 he entered St John's College, Cambridge, where he was senior wrangler in 1848, and gained the first Smith's prize and the Burney prize; and in 1849 he was elected to a fellowship, and began his life of college lecturer and private tutor. In 1862 he was made a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1865 a member of the Mathematical Society of London. In 1871 he gained the Adams prize and was elected to the council of the Royal Society. He was elected honorary fellow of St John's in 1874, having resigned his fellowship on his marriage in 1864. In 1880 his eyesight began to fail, and shortly afterwards he was attacked with paralysis.
An unfinished work, The History of the Theory of Elasticity, was edited and published posthumously in 1886 by Karl Pearson. Todhunter also published keys to the problems in his textbooks on algebra and trigonometry; and a biographical work, William Whewell, account of his writings and correspondence (1876), in addition to many original papers in scientific journals.
See obituary notices in the Proc. Land. Math. Soc. (1884), and Proc. Roy. Soc. (1884).
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.