John Wilkins


John Wilkins

Infobox_Person
name = John Wilkins
residence =
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image_size = 200px
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birth_name =
birth_date = birth date|1614|01|01
birth_place = Fawsley, Northamptonshire
death_date = death date and age|1672|11|19|1614|01|01
death_place = London
death_cause =
known =
occupation = Anglican clergyman, Author, Warden of Wadham College, Oxford, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, Secretary of the Royal Society, Bishop of Chester
title =
term =
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religion = Church of England
spouse = Robina Cromwell (sister of Oliver)
partner =
children =
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John Wilkins (January 1, 1614 - November 19, 1672) was an English clergyman and author. He was founder and first secretary of the Royal Society in 1660 and Bishop of Chester from 1668 until his death. As an author, he is particularly known for "An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language".

Wilkins is the only person to have headed a college at both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.

Biography

Wilkins was born at Fawsley, Northamptonshire, and educated at Magdalen Hall (which later became Hertford College), Oxford. His father was a goldsmith, and his grandfather was a vicar, John Dodd. After ordination, Wilkins became vicar of his home town of Fawsley in 1637, but soon resigned and became chaplain successively to Lord Saye and Sele, Lord Berkeley, and Prince Charles Louis, nephew of King Charles I and afterwards elector palatine of the Rhine.

In 1641, Wilkins published an anonymous treatise entitled "Mercury, or The Secret and Swift Messenger". [ [http://www.light-of-truth.com/Secret_Messenger/secret.html M E R C V R Y: The secret and swift Messenger] Scan of original book] This small but comprehensive work on cryptography proved a timely gift to the diplomats and leaders of the imminent English Civil War.

In 1648, he became warden of Wadham College, Oxford. Under him the college prospered extraordinarily, for, although a supporter of Oliver Cromwell, he remained in touch with the most cultured Royalists, who placed their sons in his charge. In 1656, he married Robina Cromwell, sister of Oliver Cromwell. In 1659, shortly before his death, Oliver Cromwell arranged his appointment as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge [ [http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/index.php?pageid=172 The Master of Trinity] at Trinity College, Cambridge] , an appointment that was confirmed by Cromwell's successor as Lord Protector, his son Richard Cromwell.

At the Restoration in 1660, the new authorities deprived Wilkins of the position given him by Cromwell; he gained appointment as prebendary of York and rector of Cranford, Middlesex. In 1661, he was reduced to preacher at Gray's Inn, lodging with his friend Seth Ward. In 1662, he became vicar of St Lawrence Jewry, London. He became vicar of Polebrook, Northamptonshire, in 1666, prebendary of Exeter in 1667, and in the following year prebendary of St Paul's and bishop of Chester.

Possessing strong scientific tastes, Wilkins was the chief founder of the Royal Society and its first secretary. In 1668 he published his "Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language", in which he attempted to create a universal language to replace Latin as a completely unambiguous tongue with which scholars and philosophers could communicate. [ [http://www.alamut.com/subj/artiface/language/johnWilkins.html The Analytical Language of John Wilkins] from alamut.com]

The "" (1663), an ode to the society, describes his efforts:cquote
A Doctor counted very able
Designes that all Mankynd converse shall,
Spite o' th' confusion made att Babell,
By Character call'd Universall.
How long this character will be learning,
That truly passeth my discerning. [Stimson, Dorothy. "'Ballad of Gresham College'". "Isis" volume 18, number 1, 1932. pp. 103-117.]

In 1668, Wilkins presented to the Royal Society his suggestions for rationalising the measurement system; his plan was not taken up, though in retrospect it has been identified as the first statement of a metric system. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6890000/newsid_6898200/6898274.stm?bw=nb&mp=wm&news=1&ms3=10 Metric system 'was British'] - from the BBC video news]

Death and legacy

He died in London, most likely from the medicines used to treat his kidney stones and stoppage of urine. [cite book
first=Stephen | last=Inwood | year=2005
title=The Forgotten Genius: The Biography of Robert Hooke 1635-1703
publisher=MacAdam/Cage Publishing
isbn=1596921153
]

The influence and ambitions of John Wilkins were an important thread in the historical fiction trilogy "The Baroque Cycle" by Neal Stephenson.

Works

His numerous written works include:
*"The Discovery of a World in the Moone" (1638) [ [http://www.independent.co.uk//eceRedirect?articleId=27752&pubId=55 Cromwell's moonshot: how one Jacobean scientist tried to kick off the space race] from "The Independent"] [ [http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/brunof14.htm The Discovery of a World in the Moon] from http://www.positiveatheism.org]
*"A Discourse Concerning a New Planet" (1640)
*"Mercury, or the Secret and Swift Messenger" (1641), the first English-language book on cryptography
*"Mathematical Magick" (1648)
*"An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language" (London, 1668), in which he proposes a new universal language for the use of natural philosophers.
*"Of the Principle and Duties of Natural Religion" (London, 1675).

References

External links

* [http://galileo.rice.edu/Catalog/NewFiles/wilkins.html Galileo Project: Wilkins] from the Rice University website
*gutenberg author | id=John_Wilkins_(1614-1672) | name=John Wilkins
* [http://www.bishopwilkins.co.uk Bishop Wilkins College] A Rosicrucian SRIA College named after Wilkins

Persondata
NAME = Wilkins, John
ALTERNATIVE NAMES =
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Warden of Wadham College, Oxford, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, Secretary of the Royal Society, Bishop of Chester
DATE OF BIRTH = 1614-01-01
PLACE OF BIRTH = Fawsley, Northamptonshire, England
DATE OF DEATH = 1672-11-19
PLACE OF DEATH = London, England


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