Ivory, James

views updated May 17 2018

IVORY, James

Nationality: American. Born: Berkeley, California, 7 June 1928. Education: Educated in architecture and fine arts, University of Oregon; studied filmmaking at University of Southern California, M.A. 1956. Family: Life companion of the producer Ismail Merchant. Military Service: Corporal in U.S. Army Special Services, 1953–55. Career: Founder and partner, Merchant-Ivory Productions, New York, 1961; directed his first feature, The Householder, and also began his collaboration with writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, 1963. Awards: Best Foreign Film French Academie du Cinema, and prize at Berlin Festival, for Shakespeare Wallah, 1968; Guggenheim Fellow, 1973; Best Film British Academy Award, for A Room with a View, 1987; Silver Lion, Venice Festival, for Maurice, 1987; Best Film British Academy Award, National Board of Review Best Director, Cannes Film Festival 45th Anniversary Prize, Bodil Festival Best European Film, for Howards End, 1992; John Cassavetes Award Independent Spirit Award, 1993; London Critics Circle Director of the Year, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Best Director-Foreign Film, Robert Festival Best Foreign Film, for The Remains of the Day, 1993; Directors Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award, 1995. Address: c/o Merchant-Ivory Productions, Ltd., 250 W. 57th St., Suite 1913-A, New York, NY 10107, U.S.A.

Films as Director:


Venice: Themes and Variations (doc) (+ sc, ph)


The Sword and the Flute (doc) (+ sc, ph, ed)


The Householder


The Delhi Way (doc) (+ sc)


Shakespeare Wallah (+ co-sc)


The Guru (+ co-sc)


Bombay Talkie (+ co-sc)


Adventures of a Brown Man in Search of Civilization (doc)


Savages (+ pr, sc)


The Wild Party


Autobiography of a Princess




Hullabaloo over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures; The Europeans (+ pr, co-sc, role as man in warehouse)


Jane Austen in Manhattan


Quartet (+ co-sc)


Courtesans of Bombay (doc) (+ co-sc)


Heat and Dust


The Bostonians


A Room with a View


Maurice (+ co-sc)


Slaves of New York


Mr. and Mrs. Bridge


Howards End


The Remains of the Day


Jefferson in Paris; Lumiere and Company (co-d)


Surviving Picasso


A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (+ co-sc)


The Golden Bowl

Other Films:


Noon Wine (Fields) (co-exec pr)


By IVORY: books—

Savages, with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, New York, 1973.

Shakespeare Wallah: A Film, with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, New York, 1973.

Autobiography of a Princess: Also Being the Adventures of anAmerican Film Director in the Land of the Maharajas, New York, 1975.

By IVORY: articles—

"Savages," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1971.

Interviews with Judith Trojan, in Take One (Montreal), January/February 1974 and May 1975.

Interview with D. Eisenberg, in Inter/View (New York), January 1975.

Interview with P. Anderson, in Films in Review (New York), October 1984.

"The Trouble with Olive," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1985.

"Dialogue on Film: James Ivory," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), January/February 1987.

Interviews in Hollywood Reporter, 31 March and 6 May 1989.

"Arachnophobia," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1990.

Interview with G. Fuller in Interview (New York), November 1990.

On IVORY: books—

Pym, John, The Wandering Company: Twenty-one Years of Merchant-Ivory Films, London, 1983.

Martini, Emanuela, James Ivory, Bergamo, 1985.

Long, Robert Emmett, The Films of Merchant-Ivory, New York, 1991.

On IVORY: articles—

Gillett, John, "Merchant-Ivory," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1973.

Gillett, John, "A Princess in London," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1974.

Hillgartner, D., "The Making of Roseland," in Filmmakers Newsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), January 1978.

"Quartet Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1 October 1981.

McFarlane, Brian, "Some of James Ivory's later films," in CinemaPapers (Melbourne), June 1982.

Firstenberg, J.P., "A Class Act Turns Twenty-five," in AmericanFilm (Washington, D.C.), September 1987.

Monthly Film Bulletin (London), November 1987.

Harmetz, Aljean, "Partnerships Make a Movie," in New York Times, 18 February 1990.

"Is Good Taste Enough? The Gorgeous Films of Merchant-Ivory," in The Economist (London), 29 February 1992.

Hirshey, G., "A Team with a View," in Gentlemen's Quarterly (New York), March 1992.

Dudar, Helen, "In the Beginning, the Word; At the End, the Movie," in New York Times, 8 March 1992.

Maslin, Janet, "Finding Realities to Fit a Film's Illusions," in NewYork Times, 12 March 1992.

Corliss, Richard, "Doing It Right the Hard Way," in Time (New York), 16 March 1992.

Lyons, D., "Tradition of Quality," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1992.

Eller, C., "Merchant Ivory Links with Disney," in Variety (New York), 27 July 1992.

Ash, J., "Stick It up Howard's End," in Gentlemen's Quarterly (New York), August 1994.

* * *

The work of James Ivory was a fixture in independent filmmaking of the late 1960s and 1970s. Roseland, for example, Ivory's omnibus film about the habitués of a decaying New York dance palace, garnered a standing ovation at its New York Film Festival premiere in 1977, and received much critical attention afterward. However, it was not until A Room with a View, Ivory's stately adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel, that the filmmaker gained full international recognition. The name-making films he directed earlier in the 1980s—which included adaptations of two Forster works and two Henry James novels—inextricably linked Ivory with the contemporary British cinema's tradition of urbane, even ultra-genteel, costume dramas.

Ivory's independence, his influential involvement with English film, and his sustained collaborative partnership with producer Ismail Merchant invite comparisons with an earlier pairing in British cinema, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Both teams have found themselves attracted to material dealing with the effects of sexual repression or with the clash of differing cultures, as in, for example, Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, 1947), The Europeans (Ivory/Merchant, 1979), and A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (Ivory/Merchant, 1998). While Powell and Pressburger worked with various forms of visual experimentation, employing heightened colors, frequently moving cameras, and cinematographic juxtaposition to achieve an opulent, metaphorical visual texture, Ivory's work represents a distinct retrenchment, a withdrawal from visual hyperbole, a comparative conservatism of visual style. An example of one of Ivory's few attempts at visual expressionism (a moment in his work that seems directly inspired by Powell, in fact) illustrates this point. In The Bostonians, Ivory attempts to express Olive Chancellor's hysteria by using stylized colors and superimposition in isolated dream sequences. Because the film's style is deeply rooted in naturalism, unlike that of Powell, the sequences look stilted and awkward, remarkably out of place in the context of the film.

The naturalism of Ivory's style often perfectly complements the director's interest in the dynamics of isolated communities: the drama troupe in Shakespeare Wallah, for example, or the dancers in Roseland, or the members of the New York downtown-punk scene in Slaves of New York. Ivory's films characteristically trace the formation of community around a common interest—or, more often, a common flaw or a shared loss—and his powers of observation are enlivened by attention to minute details of gesture and a keen sympathy for marginal characters. It is this sympathy that attracts him to works such as Evan Connell's novels Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge. Ivory thus provides a densely ironic but ultimately sympathetic portrait of the quietly desperate middle-class lives of the Bridges in Kansas City. This sympathy accounts as well for Ivory's handling of characters such as Charlotte Bartlett in A Room with a View. In Forster's novel, Miss Bartlett is lampooned tirelessly, emerging as one of the novel's chief examples of English hypocrisy and Forster's conception of high culture as the poison of the spirit—this is in spite of a half-hearted reprieve for the character in the novel's last pages. In the film, Maggie Smith's agile, witty performance makes the character far more appealing, and Ivory's treatment of the character (he cuts from the lovers' final union to shots of Miss Bartlett's soundless, unbending loneliness) shows that he clearly interprets her as a fully sympathetic character of great pathos.

Ivory's two Forster adaptations, A Room with a View and Maurice, are among the high-water marks of his career through the 1980s. These two films do more than demonstrate Ivory's often bracingly literary sensibility (most of Ivory's films are adaptations that doggedly strive for extreme "faithfulness" to their source material): In the Forster adaptations, this "faithfulness" co-exists with crucial shifts of emphasis that provide, simultaneously, modern interpretations of the texts.

An example of this occurs in the scene of the murder in the square in A Room with a View. In its use of hand-held cameras, graphic matches, and rhythmic editing, which provides mercurial shifts in the tone of the sequence from gravity to exultation, the sequence becomes one of the film's set-pieces, supplying the complexities that Forster largely avoids in his comparatively laconic treatment of the scene.

Upon its release in 1992, Howards End was justifiably hailed as the best film ever in the long and distinguished collaboration of Ivory, Merchant, and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. This stylish work is yet another adaptation of an E. M. Forster novel. Its scenario examines a popular Ivory theme, as it explores the repercussions of social classes coming together at a specific point in recent history (in this case, at the close of the Edwardian era in England). Emma Thompson is altogether brilliant in the role that solidified her career. She plays a cheeky and individualistic young woman who does not come from a monied background, and who is slyly charmed by a prosperous gentleman (Anthony Hopkins) whose upper-class facade hides a deceitful and heartless disposition.

The Remains of the Day is nearly as fine a film as Howards End. Based on the acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, the scenario dissects the personality of an ideal servant: Stevens (Hopkins), a reserved British butler who is singlemindedly dedicated to his employer, Lord Darlington (James Fox). The time is between the World Wars—and no matter that the misguided Darlington is perilously flirting with Nazism, and that Miss Kenton (Thompson), the new housekeeper, might be a potential romantic partner for Stevens. The servant is steadfastly absorbed in his professional role, to the exclusion of all else. He knows only to suppress his needs, feelings, and desires, all in the name of service to his master. The Remains of the Day essentially is a character study of Stevens, who is superbly played by the ever-reliable Hopkins. It is yet one more in a line of Ivory's meticulous period dramas.

The mid-to-late 1990s found Ivory exploring the lives of revered historical figures. Jefferson in Paris concerns the American Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation's founding fathers, shown here as the U.S. Ambassador to France. However, the film is several shades below the best of the previous Ivory-Merchant-Jhabvala collaborations. While Jefferson in Paris exquisitely captures a time and place, the level of detail in the film renders the narrative all too episodic. Still, Ivory offers a full-bodied portrayal of Jefferson (Nick Nolte), while depicting a range of his personal and political involvements. Most intriguing of all is the paradox of Jefferson's disgust with the overindulgences of the French aristocracy combined with his agonized collusion in keeping the status quo with regard to the maintenance of slavery as an American "institution." In Jefferson in Paris, Ivory yet again examines the theme of class differences, exploring the invisible walls that separate those classes. Only here, class is measured by the color of one's skin. Even though individuals share the same bloodlines because of sexual liaisons between master and slave, those with black skin are enslaved by those with white skin. Ivory portrays the widowed Jefferson falling in love with a married woman (Greta Scacchi) and having a sexual tryst with Sally Hemings (Thandie Newton), an adolescent slave. It remains uncertain if the latter affair ever happened. For this reason, Jefferson in Paris was the subject of debate and controversy among Jeffersonian scholars.

Ivory's next film, Surviving Picasso, charts the relationship between Pablo Picasso (Anthony Hopkins) and Francoise Gilot (Natascha McElhone), a young artist who is several decades his junior. Here, the genius of Picasso is obscured by his all-encompassing cruelty and misogyny. Gilot believes she has the backbone to maintain her individuality while sharing Picasso's bed, and for ten years she gives it the old college try before finally leaving him. Although vividly played by Hopkins, Picasso is never more than a womanizing caricature; there is little insight into why he is who he is, let alone what made him one of the giants of 20th-century art.

Ivory fared somewhat better with A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, based on the autobiographical novel by Kaylie (the daughter of James) Jones. A Soldier's Daughter is the story of an internationally acclaimed expatriate novelist (Kris Kristofferson) and his familial bonds, with the scenario emphasizing his relationship with his daughter (Leelee Sobieski) as she matures from girlhood to young womanhood. At the outset, the family resides in Paris, with a spotlight on the impact of American pop culture on post-war Europe. Then the clan resettles in the United States, where the children are viewed by their schoolmates as "frogs" and are alienated from their surroundings.

The opening section of A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries is slight and episodic; however, its finale, which centers on the writer's death, is a knowing exploration of what it means to love, and then lose, a husband and a father. One of the dramatic highlights occurs after the writer's demise, when his widow (Barbara Hershey) recalls their courting and mourns her loss.

Despite its flaws, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries is a heartfelt portrait of a loving, non-dysfunctional family—a rarity in contemporary cinema.

—James Morrison, updated by Rob Edelman

James Ivory

views updated Jun 11 2018

James Ivory

American director James Ivory (born 1928) has become known for his unrivaled screen adaptations of major classic and contemporary novels, including A Room With a View, Howards End, and The Remains of the Day. He has also enjoyed a successful and lucrative partnership with Indian producer Ismail Merchant, in their independent film company, Merchant Ivory Productions.

Seemingly destined for a career somewhere in the arts, James Ivory studied fine arts before film, and then made documentaries about art. His fascination with exotic places led him to Europe, then India, where he teamed up with the Indian producer, Ismail Merchant, and the German-born writer, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Since 1961, Ivory has collaborated with them on more than twenty movies and television productions in India, the United States, and Europe. The films of Merchant Ivory Productions have evolved into a genre of their own.

Born June 7, 1928 in Berkeley, California, James Francis Ivory grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon. He started painting at the age of six. Ivory told Bart Mills in Biography, "A teacher noticed my drawings and brought me and another little boy to the attention of a nun in the school who was a painter. We got art lessons every Friday afternoon, a dollar a lesson." Later, his father built a small stage in their home for Ivory and his sister.

Ivory became interested in film at the age of 15, after a visit to the Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) studio. He went on to study architecture and fine arts at the University of Oregon, and film at the University of Southern California.

Documentary Films

Ivory's father financed his master's thesis, a half-hour film documentary, Venice: Theme and Variation. He traveled to Venice to film the alluring city he had seen in paintings. His film depicted the significance of Venice in the art world by showing it in the context of historical paintings of the city. In 1957, the New York Times named Venice: Theme and Variation. among the best non-theatrical films of the year.

While searching for reference paintings for the Venice documentary in California and New York, Ivory discovered collections of the miniature paintings of traditional India. The miniatures, which depict epic myths and legends, became the subject of his next documentary, The Sword and The Flute. With his second film, Ivory was awarded a grant from the Asia Society of New York to make an hour-long documentary about Delhi, India.

Early Features

Ivory was in the process of making his third documentary, Delhi Way, when he met Ismail Merchant. Born and educated in Bombay, Merchant came to the United States for a graduate degree from New York University. His first short film, The Creation of Woman, was an official entry from the United States at the Cannes Film Festival. When the two filmmakers met, their interests converged into a plan to make movies in India for Indian audiences. They formed the partnership of Merchant Ivory Productions. The filmmakers approached Ruth Prawer Jhabvala about making a film based on one of her novels. The German-born, English educated author was married to an Indian architect and wrote about life in India.

Ivory's father provided the financial backing for the first Merchant-Ivory collaboration, The Householder (1963). The comedy about an Indian husband coming of age in an arranged marriage, was a screen adaptation of Jhabvala's novel. Directed by Ivory and produced by Merchant, the film was picked up by an American company and distributed worldwide to critical acclaim.

Ivory and Jhabvala wrote original screenplays for their next three Indian features. Shakespeare Wallah (1965), a romance about a British theater troupe at odds with newly-independent India, resonated with audiences. It was a commercial success at the time of its release and is considered to be a classic. This film was followed by The Guru (1969), a comedy about a British rock star who goes to India to study the sitar, and Bombay Talkie (1970), an homage to Indian cinema about an American writer and an Indian movie star.

Ivory returned to the United States and struggled for several years. He directed Savages (1972), a comedy about the occupants of a stately mansion invaded by a group of savages and their civilizing influence. The film was well received only in Europe. The Wild Party, (1974), about a tragic Greenwich Village party, was a disappointment. In 1975, Ivory directed Jhabvala's The Autobiography of a Princess, for British television.

Riding a small wave of success, Ivory returned to the United States to direct the Merchant Ivory production of Jhabvala's original screenplay, Roseland (1977) set in the New York landmark dance palace. In three episodes about dance hall denizens, the nostalgic film captures the fine line between romance and reality within that waning sub-culture. More than a decade later, Ivory directed another subculture movie, Slaves of New York (1989) which was adapted from the stories of Tama Janowitz. It relates the story of an aspiring hat designer in an avant-garde neighborhood who breaks free from the class system of apartment rental and relationships, and strikes out on her own. His portrayal of the New York alternative art scene made the film a cult classic in art circles. Ivory directed Jhabvala's original screenplay Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980) for British television, and the screen adaptation of her novel, Heat and Dust (1982) set in India.

Literary Adaptations

As a director, Ivory is perhaps best known for his literary adaptations, a series of period pieces about upper-middle-class gentility and alienation. The films were vehicles for Ivory's sharp renderings of emotion constrained by manners and reflected in the details of home decor. Writing for the "Film & TV" section of the Boston Phoenix, Jeffrey Gantz noted, "For the past 35 years, Merchant Ivory have been making movies about the slight angle at which we all stand toward one another. The trio express the difficulty of connecting through a number of metaphors: past/present, Hindu/Muslim, England/India (or Italy), America/Europe, homosexual/heterosexual, man/woman." In his previous films, Ivory had explored cultural barriers to traditional romantic love; in the novels, he found sexual ambiguities to describe on film.

In The Europeans (1979) adapted from the Henry James novel, prim New Englanders are visited by sophisticated European cousins. Efforts are made to bridge the romantic gap and implications of incest. Quartet (1981), from the novel by Jean Rhys, is about a British couple in Paris vying emotionally and sexually for the attention of a young woman. Ivory returned to James for The Bostonians (1984) and a shrinking world of cousins, lesbians, and menage a trois.

Forster Novels

It was the adaptations of E. M. Forster novels that brought critical success and enormous popularity to Ivory. Forster's belief that "the private life holds the mirror to infinity" resonated with Ivory. In The Denver Post movie critic, Stephen Rosen said, "Ivory believes the lives of these people are interesting because they are singular, not representative of a greater us or them. That is so refreshing it amounts to a revelation." A Room with a View (1986) was Ivory's first blockbuster movie, followed by Maurice in 1987. Howards End, (1992) which won three Academy Awards, including best actress for Emma Thompson, is considered to be Ivory's artistic masterpiece.

Ivory applied similar artistry and sensibilities to Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990) set in Kansas City and Paris, adapted from the novels, Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge, by Evan Connell. The Remains of the Day (1993) was adapted from Kazuro Ishiguro's novel.

Ivory returned to Paris for his next three films. They told the story of wealthy, influential men in mid-life, with a focus on their relationship to the women in their lives— daughters, wives, and lovers. Jefferson in Paris (1995), is about U.S. president Thomas Jefferson, Surviving Picasso (1996), relates the story of Pablo Picasso, and A Soldier's Daughter (1998) describes James Jones, an American writer. Ivory returned to a Henry James novel for the story A Golden Bowl (2000).

Merchant Ivory Productions

"Filmmaking just wouldn't be as much fun without Ismail and Ruth. Working together has become a way of life for us, not just a way of work," Ivory told Mills. "Of course, we quarrel often, but never in a loud-voiced way. In the end we work together, each with a strong ego, but never coming down flatly on one another. If one of us is not with the others, that one is missed." Although the team often travels to India and Europe, they come home to New York. They all have apartments in the same building on 52nd Street.

The Merchant Ivory team also includes the actors and technicians who work on the movies. Many of them keep returning to work on the next movie, due to the family atmosphere of the company, and because they share in the profits, which are sometimes considerable. The Europeans, Heat and Dust, and Howards End did quite well at the box office, while A Room with a View made millions.

Ivory has been greatly influenced by Indian director, Satyajit Ray. In 1992, when the Indian director was to receive an Academy Award for his lifetime achievement in films, the Academy began searching for clips to show as a tribute, and found his films in deteriorated condition. Having drawn inspiration from the great director, Ivory and Merchant took on the task of having his films restored. Nine of these films were digitally refurbished and are again being shown

In 1994, Ivory received the D. W. Griffith Award from the Directors Guild of America for distinguished achievement in motion picture direction. "I feel humbled— especially when I saw who the other recipients of this award have been, and for the fact that it is for all my work," he told Carolyn Hill in an interview for DGA Magazine. He credited the turning point of his career to meeting Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. "I have always thought the three of us are a bit like the United States Government," he continued in his conversation with Hill. "I've said this before and I don't mind saying it again. I'm the president. Ismail is the Congress and Ruth is the Supreme Court. That's how we operate. That's how our business gets done and I think that defines our functions."

As noted in Ivory's biography on the Internet Movie Database, "Ivory and his producer/life companion Ismail Merchant, have enjoyed a collaboration that is probably unequaled in movie history for its success and consistency."

Further Reading

Biography, November 1998.

Christian Science Monitor November 20, 1996.

Cosmopolitan, March 1992.

Newsweek March 16, 1992; May 1, 1995.

"The Elegance of James Ivory," DGA Magazine,http://www.dga.org/magazine/v20-2/ivory2.html (November 9, 1999).

"Film & TV: Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," The Boston Phoenix, April 13, 1998, http://www.weeklywire.com/ww/04-13-98/boston-movies-1.html(November 10, 1999).

"James Ivory," 35 Years of Merchant Ivory,http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Hills/2850/movies.html(February 12, 2000).

"James Ivory," Internet Movie Database (IMDb), http://www.imdb.com/(February 12, 2000).

"James Ivory takes a stab at American film again," http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/dt/V135/N10/04-james.10d.html (February 12, 2000).

"A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries," Denver Post Online: Entertainment,http://www.denverpost.com/movie/sold0925.htm (November 10, 1999).

"Sundance Filmmaker Focus: Merchant-Ivory," Sundance Channel,http://www.sundancechannel.com/focus/merchant/index.html(November 10, 1999). □

Ivory, James

views updated May 29 2018

Ivory, James

(b. Dundee, Scotland, 17 February 1765; d. London, England, 21 September 1842)


The son of James Ivory, a watchmaker, Ivory was educated at the universities of St. Andrews (1779-1785) and Edinburgh (1785-1786). After taking the M .A. degree (1783) he studied theology, with a view to entering the Church of Scotland. His studies in divinity were not pursued further, for immediately on leaving the university he was appointed teacher of mathematics and natural philosophy in Dundee. After three years he became the manager of a flaxspinning company in Forfarshire (now Angus). In 1804 the company was dissolved, and Ivory took up a mathematical professorship at the Royal Military College at Great Marlow (subsequently at Sandhurst). He held this office until 1819, when ill health compelled an early retirement. During the remainder of his life Ivory lived in London, devoting himself entirely to mathematical investigations, the results of which he made available in a long series of articles published in scientific journals. Sixteen of his papers were printed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (he was elected a fellow of the Society in 1815). He was awarded the Copley Medal in 1814 and received the Royal Medal in 1826 and 1839 .

Ivory’s interests lay mainly in the application of mathematics to physical problems, and his principal contributions may be summarized under six categories .

1. The attraction of homogeneous ellipsoids upon points situated within or outside them. His paper “On the Attractions of Homogeneous Ellipsoids,” containing the well-known theorem which bears his name, in which the attraction of an ellipsoid upon a point exterior to it is made to depend upon the attraction of another ellipsoid upon a point interior to it, was printed in the Philosophical Transactions for 1809 (pp. 345-372). Although Laplace had already reduced this problem to a similar form, Ivory’s solution was regarded as simpler and more elegant .

2. Critical commentaries on the methods used by Laplace in the third book of the Mecanique celeste for computing the attraction of spheroids differing little from spheres and the substitution of analytical methods for some of Laplace’s geometrical considerations (1812, 1822). Although some of Ivory’s criticisms seem to have been unjustified, Laplace himself paid tribute to Ivory’s work.

3. The investigation of the orbits of comets (1814).

4. Atmospheric refraction (1823, 1838).

5. The equilibrium of fluid bodies (1824, 1831, 1834, 1839).

6. The equilibrium of a homogeneous ellipsoid with three unequal axes rotating about one of its axes, based on a theorem of Jacobi and Liouville (1838).

Ivory’s scientific reputation, for which he was accorded many honors during his lifetime, including knighthood of the Order of the Guelphs, Civil Division (1831), was founded on the ability to understand and comment on the work of the French analysts rather than on any great originality of his own. At a time when few in England were capable of understanding the work of Laplace, Ivory not only grasped its significance but also showed himself capable, in many cases, of substituting a clearer and more direct process for the original. Ivory’s work, conducted with great industry over a long period, helped to foster in England a new interest in the application of analysis to physical problems .


A list of ninety papers published by Ivory is in the Royal Society, Catalogue of Scientific Papers, III, 502-505. These include brief notes, comments and corrections, correspondence from the Philosophical Magazine (1821-1828), and his most important papers in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Biographical notices include R. E. Anderson in Dictionary of National Biography, XXIX, 82-83; and W. Norrie in Dundee Celebrities (Dundee, 1878), pp. 70-73. An informed critique of Ivory’s work is in Proceedings of the Royal Society, n .s. 55 (1842), 406-513. Isaac Todhunter discusses Ivory’s contribution to the theory of attraction in A History of the Mathematical Theories of Attraction and the Figure of the Earth, 2 vols . (London, 1873), II, 221-224, and passim.

Margaret E. Baron

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