Mathematical development in England was at a low ebb in the early decades of the nineteenth century, with Cambridge stagnating in the shadow of Newton, who had produced his mathematics nearly a century and a half earlier. This dead hand of tradition, which stifled much initiative and originality, was in sharp contrast to the situation in France.
D. Mary Cannell, "George Green Mathematician and Physicist 1793-1841: The background to his life and work" p. xxviii (second edition, 2001).
The final truth about a phenomenon resides in the mathematical description of it; so long as there is no imperfection in this, our knowledge of the phenomenon is complete. We go beyond the mathematical formula at our own risk; we may find a model or a picture which helps us understand it, but we have no right to expect this, and our failure to find such a model or picture need not indicate that either our reasoning or our knowledge is at fault. The making of models or pictures to explain mathematical formulas and the phenomena they describe is not a step towards, but a step away from reality; it is like making a graven image of a spirit.