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His resolution and perseverance were very uncommon; whatever he undertook, neither expense nor fatigue were able to repress him; but his constancy was calm, and, to those who did not know him, appeared faint and languid; but he always went forward, though he moved slowly.
The same chillness of mind was observable in his conversation: he was watching the minutest accent of those whom he disgusted by seeming inattention; and his visitant was surprised when he came a second time, by preparations to execute the scheme which he supposed never to
have been heard.
He was, consistently with this general tranquillity of mind, a tenacious maintainer, though not a clamorous demander, of his right. In his youth, having summoned his fellow journeymen to concert measures against the oppression of their masters, he mounted a kind of rostrum, and harangued them so efficaciously, that they determined to resist all future Invasions; and when the stamp-officers demanded to stamp the last half sheet of the Magazines, Mr. Cave alone defeated their claim, to which the proprietors of the rival Magazines would meanly have submitted.
He was a friend rather easy and constant, than zealous and active; yet many instances might be given, where both his money and his diligence were employed liberally for others. His enmity was in like manner cool and deliberate; but though cool, it was not insidious, and though deliberate, not pertinacious.
His mental faculties were slow. He saw little at a time, but that little he saw with great exactness. He was long in finding the right, but seldom failed to find it at last. His affections were not easily gained, and his opinion not quickly discovered. His reserve, as it might hide his faults, concealed his virtues; but such he was, as they who best knew him have most lamented.
II. Memoirs of Professor SAUNDERSON,
As you have obliged your readers with some lectures of the late Professor Saunderson, not before published, I have thrown together several particulars of his life, which as yet are known but to few, and to connect them have briefly related the principal events that have already appeared in
print. As he was my preceptor, the greater part of what I have added is of my own knowledge, and I hope it will not be found destitute either of entertainment or use.
His father was possessed of a small estate, besides which he enjoyed a place in the excise many years. Nicholas, who was the eldest of several children, was born at Thurlston, near Peniston, in Yorkshire, in January 1632, and when he was about a year old the small pox deprived him not of his sight only, but of his eyes, both which came away by an abscess. After this accident, therefore, he could be sensible of no difference between noon and midnight, the strongest sun-shine and the deepest darkness; nor had he any remembrance of the perceptions that he had lost; for he has been frequently heard to declare, that he had no more idea of light and colour than if he had been blind from his birth.
"When knowledge is thus at one entrance quite shut out,' it is no wonder that an inquisitive mind should attend her at other avenues with greater diligence. It is not therefore strange that Saunderson should be able nicely to distinguish sounds; neither is it strange, that he should, by an application to them, from which those who see are diverted, be able to account for their origin, progress, modulation, and effects; but that he should be able to treat as a philosopher, of what he could not perceive, is in the highest degree astonishing; and yet that he would explain and illustrate all the principles of optics, with the utmost perspicuity and exactness, is a truth too well established to be disputed.
He was sent very early to the grammar school at Pen iston; and though, instead of reading himself, he could only listen to another, yet he soon made a considerable progress in classical learning.
Virgil and Horace were his favourites among the Roman writers, and he would quote them in conversation with great propriety, and without any appearance of pedantry; but Euclid, Archimedes, and Diophantus, and some other mathematicians, were the authors he chiefly studied in the Greek language. He was afterwards taught arithmetic by his father, and was soon able to make very long calculations by the strength of his memory, and to invent new rules for the solution of arithmetical problems, with greater readiness and facility.
With these acquisitions, at the age of eighteen, Mr. West, a neighbouring gentleman, taught him the principles of algebra and geometry, in which good work he was assisted by Dr. Nettleton, who not only furnished him with books.
but frequently expounded them to him. His father was extremely desirous to improve his love of knowledge, and capacity to acquire it, as the only probable means of his subsistence; but as he had a large family and a small income, he could not afford to send him to Oxford or Cam bridge, and therefore placed him at a little academy in a village called Attercliff, near Sheffield. Here he made himself master of logic and metaphysics in a short time, and then, as nothing else was taught there, he left the place.
From this time he prosecuted his studies merely by the force of his own genius, and never failed to obviate whatever difficulty obstructed his progress. Hitherto he had been supported by his father; but his friends were now determined, if possible, to put him in some way of maintaining himself. In this his inclination was consulted, though there was indeed but little in the power of his choice. It was however at length agreed that he should go to Cambridge, and teach philosophy in that university. At Cambridge therefore he made his first appearance in a very extraordinary character, and was perhaps the only person that ever first entered an university, not to receive, but communicate, knowledge. He was not admitted of any college, but chose Christ College for his residence, where his intimate friend Mr. Joshua Dun, was then a fellow commoner. The society, who were much pleased at so extraordinary a guest, allotted him an apartment, gave him the use of their library, and admitted him to every other privilege of a member. Still, however, he had many difficulties to conquer; he was but 25 years of age, he had no fortune, and he was to teach philosophy where he had but one friend, and where Mr. Whiston, the most eminent mathematician of his time, was in the chair.
But Mr. Whiston's influence and merit, circumstances which were most likely to frustrate his attempt, were, on the contrary, greatly instrumental in its success. Mr. Whiston was remarkably good-natured, and a great encourager of that learning in others for which he was so distinguished himself; and therefore, instead of prohibiting Mr. Saunderson, as it was his interest, and in his power to do, he gave him not only his express permission to read lectures, but recommended him whenever an opportunity offered.
His lecture, as soon as it commenced, was so crowded, that he found it difficult to divide the day amongst all who applied for his instructions. He set out with an explanation of Sir Isaac Newton's Optics, an attempt so extraordinary
for a blind man, that several foreigners have doubted the truth of it. From optics he proceeded regularly to explain the rest of Sir Isaac's Works, and in a little time became very intimate with the incomparable author himself.
Mr. Saunderson had not been long in this situation, before Mr. Whiston was removed from his professorship for refusing certain compliances, which his avowed principles of Arianism would not suffer him to make. Upon his removal, the superiority of Saunderson's merit was so evident, that a very uncommon step was taken, to qualify him with a degree which the statutes required.
The heads of all the colleges, agreeable to the sense of the whole university, made application to the Duke of Somerset, then Chancellor, who, together with Sir Isaac Newton, and some other persons of eminence, waited on Queen Anne, to intercede for a mandate for a master's degree, which her majesty, with her usual condescension and goodness, was pleased to grant.
Upon this he was chosen Lucasian professor of the mathematics, in November, 1711. His first performance after this preferment, was an inauguration speech, written with great spirit, and in very elegant Latin, which he delivered in a most engaging manner, and which gained him universal applause.
At the close of the speech, he added a long encomium on the mathematics, shewing the excellence and advantage of this above every other method of reasoning. This occasioned him some obloquy; and, to own the truth, he was not very easy of assent to certain propositions, which do not in their nature admit of mathematical proof.
In the year 1723, he took a house in Cambridge, and soon after married a daughter of the Rev. Mr. William Dickons, rector of Bosworth, in the county of Cambridge, by whom he had a son and a daughter.
In the year 1728, his present majesty*, after a tour to Newmarket, honoured the university with a visit. He signified his desire of seeing the professor. The professor accordingly waited on his majesty, and attended him to the senatehouse, where he was created a doctor in civil laws, on his majesty's command, by the chancellor himself in person.
For eleven years after this event, Dr. Saunderson continued his lectures with great honour to the university, and emolument to himself; but on the 19th of April, 1739, in the 57th year of his age, he died of a mortification in his foot.
[* K. Geo. II. E.]
He was naturally of a strong constitution, and of a disposition extremely athletic. He loved riding passionately, and would follow a pack of hounds, not only with ardour, but desperation. He was, however, so much engaged with his pupils, that it was not often he could thus indulge himself; and it was thought that this way of life, which of necessity was sedentary, brought on that scorbutic habit, which terminated in an incurable mortification.
He was so excellent and facetious a companion, that it was impossible to be melancholy in his company, and his discourse was so frequently enlivened with allusions to objects of sight, that there appeared no defect of the blind man. Amongst his pupils he was very entertaining and familiar, but was excessively exasperated if they did not pay due attention to his lectures. On this account the gentlemen commoners and noblemen gave him great offence, and he said in a passion one day, " that, if he was to go to hell, his punishment would be to read lectures in the mathematics to the gentlemen commoners of that university."
He had many contrivances to supply the want of sight. Ile had a board bored with holes, at the equal distance of half an inch, in each of which was a pin, so that by drawing a piece of twine round the heads of these pins he could produce all rectilinear figures, more readily than with a pen. He had another board with holes made for pins of different sizes, by the help of which he used to make his calculations. His ear and touch were exquisitely fine. He could distinguish the fifth part of a note, and was an admirable performer on the flute. He could judge of the size of a room by the sound it made from the stamp of his foot, and never forgot the tone of any person's voice with whom he had ever conversed.
III. Some Account of the Right Rev. Doctor THOMAS SHERLOCK,
HE was the son of a most eminent father, who was no less distinguished in the last age, than the son has been in this. And what is very remarkable, this place has enjoyed the benefit of their instruction for more than 70 years.-