Sylvester was born in London and studied at St John's College, Cambridge from 1833 but because he was Jewish he did not graduate. In 1841 he came to United States for a short period to become a professor at the University of Virginia but he soon returned to England.

In 1877 Sylvester again crossed the Atlantic ocean for a new job at Johns Hopkins University. In 1878 he founded the *American Journal of Mathematics*, the first mathematical journal in the United States.

It is said that Sylvester invented one of the highest numbers of mathematical terms such as the totient function φ(*n*). His scientific work is collected in a four volume book.

Sylvester House, one of the undergraduate dormitories at Johns Hopkins, is named in his honor.

- James Joseph Sylvester,
*On rational derivation from equations of coexistence, that is to say, a new and extended theory of elimination, Part I,*Philos. Mag.**15**(1839), 428-435. - James Joseph Sylvester,
*On the partition of numbers*, Quart. J. Math.,**I**(1857), 141-152. - James Joseph Sylvester,
*Outlines of seven lectures on the partition of numbers*, Proc. Lond. Math. Soc.**28**(1897), 33-96.