Free eBook: Getting Through the Storms in Life

Henry Gellibrand

Henry Gellibrand, A. M.—This learned person was bom in the parish of St. Botolph, Aldersgate, London, November 17, 1597, and educated in Trinity college, Oxford. Having finished the requisite studies at the university, he was for some time curate at Chiddingston in Kent. Afterwards, by attending Sir Henry Savile's lectures on the mathematics,* he became so much in love with that science, that though he had the most flattering prospect of preferment in the church, he resolved to forego every thing for a close application to this branch of learning. He therefore contented himself with his own private patrimony, which about this time, upon the death of his father, came into his hands. At the same time he entered himself a student at Oxford, and made the study of the mathematics his principal employment. During the period of his close application, he prosecuted his studies with so much ardour and success, and so greatly excelled in that science, that in two or three years he was admitted to a familiarity with the most distinguished masters. Among other celebrated scholars, Mr. Henry Briggs, the Savilian professor of geometry at Oxford, shewed him particular countenance and favour. This, in a few years, was improved to so great a degree of intimacy and friendship, that the professor communicated to him all his notions and discoveries.

Upon the death of the ingenious Mr. Edmund Gunter, he became a candidate for his professorship in Gresham college. On this occasion he procured a certificate from the rector of the parish in which he had officiated as curate, and from others of the clergy in Kent, giving a high character of his learning and piety; and another from the president, vice-president, and fellows of Trinity college, Oxford, which is conceived in very strong terms, and acknowledges not only his assiduity in his studies, but his great frankness in the communication of knowledge, and his disinterested

* Sir Henry Savile, whose name U often mentioned, wm a penon of great celebrity in bit day. He was wonderfully ikilled in the Greek language and the mathematics, in the latter of which he voluntarily read public lectures In the university. He afterwards went abroad; and by Improving himself in every branch of useful literature, he became a most accom* pushed gentleman. He was warden of Merlon college, Oxford, thirty-six years, which he governed with great diligence and integrity, making it his chief care, night and day, to improve it in riches and all kinds of good literature. By his munificence the university was greatly enriched by legacies of money, printed books, and rare manuscripts. He is styled, "That magazine of learning, whose memory shall be honourable amongst the learned and the righteous for ever."—Biog. Britan. vol. v. p. 3598— 3600. Edit. 1747.

ncss and contentment with his own little patrimony, that the pursuit of preferment might prove no detriment to hit studies. In all probability these papers had great weight, since, within a tew days, January 2, 1626, he was elected professor of astronomy in that college.*

Mr. Gellibrand was a decided puritan, and an enemy to the errors and superstitions of popery. In the year 1631, his servant, William Beale, by his encouragement, published an almanack, in which the popish saints, usually put into our calender, were omitted; and the names of the saints and martyrs, mentioned in Mr. Fox's " Acts and Monuments of the Martyrs," wore printed in their stead, exactly as they stand in Mr. Fox's calender. This gave

freat offence to Bishop Laud, who immediately cited them oth into the high commission court. When the case came to be examined, and it appeared that other almanacks of the same kind had been printed in former times, both Mr. Gellibrand and his servant were acquitted by Archbishop Abbot and the whole court, excepting Laud. This tyrannizing ecclesiastic, finding the court so favourable towards Mr. Gellibrand, stood up, and in great anger declared, " That the queen herself (a notorious papist) sent for him, and particularly complained to him against this almanack, which gave offence to those of her religion; and desired him to prosecute the author and suppress the book; therefore, he hoped that he should not go unpunished in this court." But the court still persisted in acquitting him; upon which the bishop again stood up, and in great fury addressed Mr. Gellibrand, saying, " Sir, remember you have made a faction in this court, for which you ought to be punished; and know that you arc not yet discharged. I will sit in your skirts. For I hear that you keep conventicles at Grcsham college, after your lectures arc ended." His grace then ordercua second prosecution against him in the high commission, which so deeply affected the good man's spirits, that it brought a complaint upon him, of which he afterwards died.t

He lived in the closest intimacy with Mr. Henry Briggs, at whose death, and by his solicitation, Mr. Gellibrand undertook the perfecting and publishing his celebrated

• Biog. Britan. vol. It. p. 8188. Edit. 1747.

+ As Laud could not succeed in having Mr. Gellibrand censured, and hit almanacks burned by the common hangman, the papists bought them all up, and caused them to suffer martyrdom in the flames.—Prynm't Cantcrturitt Dome, p. 182.

work entitled 4c British Trigonometry, or the Doctrine of Triangles," 1633. He was pressed to the publication of it by various eminent persons, to whom he gave the fullest satisfaction, as well as to the literati in Holland, where it was reprinted, and received with great applause. During the same year, upon the publication of Mr. Thomas James's " Account of his Voyage for the Discovery of a North-west Passage, and Wintering in Hudson's Bay," his piece, entitled " An Appendix concerning Longitude, was annexed to the work. It was at that season very much admired, and, notwithstanding the great improvements that have been since made, it may even now be very justly styled a curious and a useful piece.

It is commonly believed that Mr. Gellibrand was the first who discovered the variation of the magnetic needle, the truth of which is founded upon the credit of a very great man, who has positively affirmed it as a fact. .Some are, however, disposed to doubt the correctness of his statement. Be this as it may, it is certain that he was deeply versed in the subject, and upon which he wrote a very learned book, entitled " A Discourse Mathematical on the Variation of the Magnetic Needle. Together with the admirable Diminution lately Discovered," 1635. This work, styled very curious, has been, and ever will be, esteemed by competent judges.* He wrote several other pieces in his particular profession, which were published some before and some after his death, a list of which is given below. These excellent productions of his pen added greatly to the reputation which he had before obtained, and raised very high expectations of his future greatness. There arc others of his labours yet remaining in manuscript, which, it is said, are no way inferior, either in merit or importance, to those that are published. All these taken together fully shew that his diligence and application were equal to his sagacity and penetration, and that he did great honour to the learned college to which he belonged; and fully answered the hopes that were entertained of him, when his friends at the university recommended him thither, as one possessed of a great genius for mathematical learning, and was willing that the world should enjoy the benefit of his studies. His situation in the college, where he had free converse with learned men, and made uncommon progress in his mathematical inquiries, gave him an opportunity, it is said, of

contributing much to the improvement of navigation, which, if he had lived longer, would probably have been more indebted to his labours.* He died February 9, 1637, aged forty years. His remains were inferred in St. Peter's church, Broad-street, London; when Dr. Hannibal Potter, formerly his tutor at Trinity college, preached his funeral sermon, and gave excellent commendations of his character.* He was a person of great learning, piety, and worth.j

His Works, in addition to the pieces already noticed.—I. A Preface to the Sciographia of John Wells, 1635.—1. An Institution Trigonometrical, explaining the Doctrine of the Dimensions of plain and spherical Triangles, after the most exact and compendious way, by tables of sines, tangents, secants, and logarithms; with the application thereof to questions of Astronomy and Navigation, 163..—-3. An Epitome of Navigation, 1674.—1. Several necessary Tables pertaining to Navigation, 1674.—5. A Triangular Canon Logrithmical; or, a Table of Artificial Sines, Tangents, Sac, 1674.—6. Two Cliliads; or, the Logarithms of absolute numbers, from an unite to 2000, 1674.—7. An Appendix, containing the Use of the Forestall, Quadrant, and Nocturnal in Navigation, 1674.

California - Do Not Sell My Personal Information  California - CCPA Notice