BARROW

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BARROW, Isaac, an eminent mathematician and divine, was the son of Mr. Thomas Barrow, a respectable citizen and linendraper of London, in which city he was born in 1630. His childhood gave no presage of his future celebrity; for, at the Charterhouse, where he was educated, he was chiefly remarkable for fighting and neglect of study. Being removed to a school at Felsted, in Essex, he began to show some earnest of his future great reputation. He was subsequently entered a pensioner of Trinity college, Cambridge, of which he was chosen a scholar, in 1647 The ejection of his uncle, the bishop ofSt. Asaph, from his fellowship of Peterhouse, in consequence of his adherence to the royal party, and the great losses sustained by his father in the same cause, left him in a very unprovided condition. His good disposition and great attainments, however, so won upon his superiors, that, although he refused to subscribe to the covenant, he was very highly regarded. In 1649, he was elected fellow of his college, and, finding that opinions in church and state opposite to his own now prevailed, proceeded some length in the study of anatomy, botany and chemistry, with a view to the medical profession. He however changed his mind, and to the study of divinity joined that of mathematics and astronomy, unbending his mind by the cultivation of poetry, to which he was always much attached. In 1652, he graduated M. A. at Oxford, and, being disapnointed in his endeavor to obtain the Greek professorship at Cambridge, engaged in a scheme of foreign travel. He set out in 1655; and, during his absence, his first work, an edition of Euclid's Elements, was published at Cambridge. He visited France and Italy, where he embarked for Smyrna; and, the ship in which he sailed being attacked by an Algerine corsair, he stood manfully to the guns until the enemy was beaten off. From Smyrna he proceeded to Constantinople, returned, in 1659, by way of Germany and Holland, and was soon after episcopally ordained by bishop Brownrigg. In 1660, he was elected Greek professor at the university of Cambridge, without a competitor. At the recommendation of doctor Wilkins, afterwards bishop of Chester, he was, in 1662, chosen professor of geometry in Gresham college, and, in 1663, the royal society elected him a member of that body, in the first choice after their incorporation. The same year, he was appointed the first Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, on which occasion he delivered an excellent prefatory lecture on the utility of mathematical science. In 1669, on a conscientious principle of duty, he determined to give up mathematics, and adhere exclusively to divinity. Accordingly, after publishing his celebrated Lectiones Opticoe, he resigned his chair to a successor worthy of himthe great Newton. In 1670, he was created D. D. by mandate, and, in 1672, the king nominated him to the mastership of Trinity college, observing that he had bestowed it on the ojest scholar in England. He had, before Shis, refused a living, given him with a view to secure his services as a tutor to the son of the gentleman who had it to bestow, because he deemed such a contract simoniacal; and he now, with similar conscientiousness, had a clause in bis patent of master, allowing him to marry, erased, because incompatible with the intentions of the founder. In 1675 he was chosen vicechancellor of the university of Cambridge; but the credit and utility expected from his labors were frustrated by his untimely death, from a violent fever, in May, 1677, in the 47th yea* of his age. The works of doctor Barrow, both mathematical and theological, are of the highest class. Of the former, the following are the principal:Euclidis Elementa, Cantab., 1655,8vo.; Euclidis Data, Cantab., 1657, 8vo.; Lectiones Opticce, Lond., 1669, 4to.; Lectiones Geometricce, Lond., 1670,4to.; Archimedis Opera, Apollonii Conicorum, lib. iv ; Theoaosii Sphericorum, lib. hi, novo meihodo illustrata et succincte demonstrata, Lond., 1675, 4to.; Lectio in qua Theoremata Archimedis de Sphera et Cylindro per Methodum indivisibilium investigata, &c, Lond., 1678. 12mo.; Mathematical Lectiones, Lond., 1683. The two last works were not published till after his death. All his English works are theological: they were left in MS., and published by doctor Tillotson, in 3 vols., folio, Lond., 1685. Isaaci Barrow Opuscula, appeared in 1697, Lond., folio. As a mathematician, especially in the higher geometry, Barrow was deemed inferior only to Newton: as a divine, he was singularly distinguished for depth and copiousness of thought; and he so exhausted the subjects which he treated in his sermons, that Charles II used to call him an unfair preacher, for leaving nothing to be said after him. Le Clerc speaks of his sermons as exact dissertations, rather than addresses to the people; and, although unusually long, they so abound in matter, that his language sometimes labors in the expression of it; whence his style is occasionally involved and parenthetical. Passages of sublime and simple eloquence, however, frequently occur; and, although his divinity is less read now than formerly, it is not unfrequently resorted to as a mine of excellent thoughts and arguments. A fine specimen of his characteristic copiousness is quoted, by Addison, from his sermon on Vain and Idle Talking, in which the various forms and guises of wit are enumerated with a felicity of expression which it would be difficult to parallel. Doctor Barrow was himself celebrated for wit, ana still more tor nis personal courage, which was always remarkable. In external appearance, he exhibited more of the scholar than the man of the world; being short in his person, meager in his countenance, and slovenly in his habits. These, however, were but small defects in a man otherwise so highly gifted, and so modest, conscientious and amiable. Charitable even in bounded circumstances, altogether disinterested in prosperity, and serene and contented in all fortunes, he was at once the divine and philosopher, leaving little property other than his books, and the reputation of being one of the greatest ornaments to his country.