Monday, October 11, 2010

William Whiston

William Whiston (December 9, 1667 - August 22, 1752), English divine and mathematician, was born at Norton in Leicestershire, of which village his father was rector. He is probably best known for his translation of the Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, his A New Theory of the Earth, and his Arianism.

He was educated privately, partly on account of the delicacy of his health, and partly that he might act as amanuensis (One employed to take dictation, or copy manuscripts; A clerk, secretary or stenographer, or scribe) to his father, who had lost his sight. After his father's death, he entered at Clare College, Cambridge, where he applied himself to mathematical study, and obtained a fellowship in 1693[1]. He next became chaplain to John Moore (1646-1714), the learned bishop of Ely, from whom he received the living of Lowestoft in 1698.

His A New Theory of the Earth (1696), an articulation of Creationism and flood geology which held that the global flood of Noah had been caused by a comet, obtained the praise of both Sir Isaac Newton and John Locke, the latter of whom classed the author among those who, if not adding much to our knowledge, "At least bring some new things to our thoughts." In 1701 he resigned his living to become deputy at Cambridge to Newton, whom two years later he succeeded as Lucasian professor of mathematics[2]. Here he engaged in joint research with his junior colleague Roger Cotes, appointed with Whiston's patronage to the Plumian chair of Astronomy in 1706.


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