Person: Allen, Thomas
Thomas Allen was an English mathematician and antiquary important for his large collection of mathematical (and other) manuscripts.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Thomas matriculated at the University of Oxford in 1561, when he was twenty years old.
- In 1670 Allen resigned his fellowship at Trinity and moved to Gloucester Hall where he spent the rest of his life.
- Let us emphasise that we should not think any the less of Allen because of his interests in magic and astrology; most of the great scientists and mathematicians of his time, and much later, had such interests.
- We have already noted Allen's interest in collecting manuscripts.
- However, details of about 250 manuscripts that Allen possessed are known for they are still extant.
- This is an important contribution by Allen for many of these manuscripts would not have survived but for his efforts.
- Allen taught mathematics and was, by a contemporary account, an extremely popular teacher who filled the lecture halls.
- Allen's first patron was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
- Allen became a friend of Henry Percy, ninth earl of Northumberland, in the early 1580s.
- He had held them so long that he could not identify them and left it to Allen to do so.
- Allen made many visits to Syon House during the years that Harriot lived and worked there.
- Harriot was held on suspicion of being involved in the Plot and imprisoned for a short while, but Allen appears to have avoided the problems of some of his friends.
- However, Allen needed a new patron, particularly to help him fund the building of his library, and he turned to Sir John Scudamore of Holme Lacy, Herefordshire, whom he already knew through Henry Percy.
- Allen drew up his will in January 1629 when he was 88 years old.
- Digby presented Allen's collection of manuscripts to the Bodleian Library in 1634.
- Among the many treasures from Allen's collection which is today in the Bodleian Library is a 16th century printing of the 13th century Arabic translation by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi of Euclid's Elements.
- At Allen's funeral he was given full honours by Oxford University and, the day after his death, he was buried in Trinity College chapel.
- recalling Allen's 'genius, his mastery of all arts and so many sciences' he cited the banishment and indignities suffered by academics of earlier ages - Hypatia of Alexandria, the great Roger Bacon and John Bale.
- Allen had been less captivated by the studies taught at Trinity than by mathematics; and his choice of Gloucester Hall was due to its being the habitation of great mediaeval mathematicians of the Benedictine Order, whose libraries, crammed with mathematical books, showed their continuing devotion to such studies.
- But Allen was the Coryphaeus of the mathematicians of his time.
- Now, having completed almost 92 years, he had gone forth from his narrow home to become an august member of the heavens and to live forever in the memory of men: 'Rejoice indeed, O Allen, rejoice O divine spirit, for no further vicissitudes can assail you now'.
Born 21 December 1540, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, England. Died 30 September 1632, Cambridge, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive