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Thomas Hariot, the Mathematician, the Philosopher and the Scholar   By: (1819-1886)

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Thomas Hariot

[Redactor's note: Very little is known of Thomas Hariot; his only published works are the 'Briefe and true report' (PG4247) and the posthumous 'Praxis', a handbook of algebra. He anticipated the law of refraction, corresponded with Kepler, observed comets, and may have been the first to recognize that the straight line paths of comets might be segments of elongated ellipses. The lost 'ephemera' referred to in the text have since been found (since 1876) and a conference was held in 1970 at the University of Delaware on the current state of Hariot research, the proceedings of which have been published by the Oxford University Press, where one may find a fairly current view of the historical record. Due to the large number of quotations and early english typography, the casual reader may find the 'html' version easier to follow than the text version.]

THOMAS HARIOT THE MATHEMATICIAN THE PHILOSOPHER AND THE SCHOLAR DEVELOPED CHIEFLY FROM DORMANT MATERIALS WITH NOTICES OF HIS ASSOCIATES INCLUDING BIOGRAPHICAL AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL DISQUISITIONS UPON THE MATERIALS OF THE HISTORY OF 'OULD VIRGINIA'

BY HENRY STEVENS OF VERMONT

PREMONITION

WHEN I YEARS AGO undertook among other enterprises to compile a sketch of the life of THOMAS HARIOT the first historian of the new found land of Virginia; and to trace the gradual geographical development of that country out of the unlimited 'Terra Florida' of Juan Ponce de Leon, through the French planting and the Spanish rooting out of the Huguenot colony down to the successful foothold of the English in Wingandacoa under Raleigh's patent, I little suspected either the extent of the research I was drifting into, or the success that awaited my investigations.

The results however are contained in this little volume, which has expanded day by day from the original limit of fifty to above two hundred pages. From a concise bibliographical essay the work has grown into a biography of a philosopher and man of science with extraordinary surroundings, wherein the patient reader may trace the gradual development of Virginia from the earliest time to 1585 ; I especially,' says Strachey, I that which hath bene published by that true lover of vertue and great learned professor of all arts and knowledges, Mr Hariots, who lyved there in the tyme of the first colony, spake the Indian language, searcht the country,' etc ; Hariot's nearly forty years' intimate connection with Sir Walter Raleigh; his long close companionship with Henry Percy ; his correspondence with Kepler; his participation in Raleigh's `History of the World;' his invention of the telescope and his consequent astronomical discoveries ; his scientific disciples ; his many friendships and no foeships ; his blameless life ; his beautiful epitaph in St Christopher's church, and his long slumber in the 'garden' of the Bank of England.

The little book is now submitted with considerable diffidence, for in endeavouring to extricate Hariot from the confusion of historical 'facts' into which he had fallen, and to place him in the position to which he is entitled by his great merits, it is desirable to be clear, explicit and logical. A decision of mankind of two centuries' standing, as expressed in many dictionaries and encyclopaedias, cannot be easily reversed without good contemporary evidence... Continue reading book >>




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