Person: Whiston, William
William Whiston was an English mathematician who succeeded Newton as Lucasian professor at Cambridge, but was later deprived of his chair on religious grounds.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- William attended Newton's lectures while at Cambridge and he showed great promise in mathematics.
- Of course the work mixed science and religion to the extent that Whiston claimed that the comet was divinely guided.
- Even those such as Buffon who criticised Whiston's book accepted some his ideas which they incorporated into their own theories.
- In 1698 Whiston obtained a vicarage in Suffolk at Lowestoft-with-Kissingland.
- However Whiston fell out with Newton over Bible chronology for, unlike Newton's, his cosmology involved direct intervention by God.
- Despite this much of Whiston's religious beliefs seem close to those of Newton.
- In May 1702 Whiston succeeded Newton as Lucasian professor and, in the following year, he published an edition of Tacquet's Euclid "for the use of young students in the University".
- With Newton's agreement, Whiston published Newton's algebra lectures in 1707 under the title Arithmetica universalis Ⓣ(Universal arithmetic) and, three years later, his own astronomy lectures as Praelectiones astronomicae Ⓣ(Astronomical lectures).
- He lectured at Cambridge on mathematics and natural philosophy and, after Roger Cotes was appointed to the Plumian professorship in 1706, receiving strong recommendations from Whiston, they undertook joint research.
- Whiston also published religious works such as Essay on the Revelation (1706).
- Whiston was now rather poor and lived off the income of a small farm near Newmarket.
- In 1714, along with Humphrey Ditton, Whiston approached parliament advising them to encourage work on solving the longitude problem by offering large financial rewards.
- Having been one of the main enthusiasts for the Longitude Act, Whiston now proposed a number of methods of finding the longitude at sea; there was a lot of money for a good solution but he never succeeded.
- It is suggested that Whiston fitted the surfaces using observations of inclination at a chosen triple of localities; and that he did this in order to use data from non-included localities as a check on his model.
- Whiston published The Longitude and Latitude Found by the Inclinatory or Dipping Needle in 1721.
- Wanting to return to an early form of Christianity, he founded the Society for Promoting Primitive Christianity in 1715 which held meetings in Whiston's London home.
- Ruth Whiston died in 1751, and Whiston died in the following year after being ill for one week.
Born 9 December 1667, Norton-juxta-Twycross, Leicestershire, England. Died 22 August 1752, Lyndon Hall, Rutland, England.
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Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Geography, Origin England, Physics
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive