- John Hellins
"This subject should not be confused with John Hellins, 1829–87, Clergyman and entomologist" [ [http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/darwinletters/namedefs/namedef-2205.html John Hellins, 1829–87, Clergyman and entomologist: Darwin correspondence project database] , which lists this Hellins as one of Charles Darwin's correspondents. It is not known whether the two John Hellins' are related.] .
John Hellins, ("c". 1749 [ [http://www.potterspury.org.uk/fhs/pr/pury/burial_h.htm The transcribed Burial Records of Potterspury] , at http://www.potterspury.org.uk/fhs/pr/pury/burial_h.htm , show his age at death as 78.] -
April 5, 1827), autodidact, schoolteacher, mathematician, astronomer, FRS and country parson.
He was born in Devon "c". 1749
Oxford Dictionary of National Biographyarticle on John Hellins.] . The son of a poor family, the parish apprenticed him to a cooper.
He became a schoolteacher and through hard work and patronage became assistant to
Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royalin 1773 [. An early scientific paper was: "Theorems for Computing Logarithms." By the Rev. John Hellins; Communicated by the Rev. Nevil Maskelyne, D. D., F. R. S. and Astronomer Royal,in "Philosophical Transactions Series I",(1780), volume 70, pages 307-317 [Referred to by [http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1780RSPT...70..307H Smithsonian/NASA ADS Astronomy Abstract Service.] ] ] .
ervice as priest
He went on to become a clergyman, serving as a curate at St. Constantine's church, Cornwall (1779–83) and afterwards of
Greens Norton, near Towcester, and in 1790 was presented to the vicarage of Potterspuryin Northamptonshire[The ODNB atticle say "On 10 November 1794 he married Anne, née Brock of North Tawton, with whom he had one son."] .
He founded the village school in
Potterspury. The John Hellins Primary School, Potterspury, bears his name. Its website includes a portrait of the Reverend John Hellins [ [http://www.johnhellinsprimary.ik.org/ John Hellins Primary School at http://www.johnhellinsprimary.ik.org/ > About us > Reverend John Hellins.] ] .
Recognition of his scientific contribution
His mathematician and astronomical learning was noted. He became a
Fellow of the Royal Societyin 1796. Three years later (1799), he was awarded the Copley Medal largely for his paper on computing the perturbations of planets.
He supervised the translation from Italian of the "Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventu italiana") by
Maria Gaetana Agnesi, which was published in 1801 by Taylor and Wilks, London as "Analytical Institutions in Four Books"A digitised scan of the "Analytical Institutions" is available at [http://books.google.com/books?id=o54AAAAAMAAJ&dq=%22john+hellins%22&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=xyWOTm1zOP&sig=V6APOLfDngjkwbLy6zBHYAZUX3E#PPR2,M1 Google Books] . Hellins signs the Editor's Advertisement " September 29, 1801, Potter's-Pury."]
Davies Gilbert's eulogy
"The Gentleman's magazine" 1828, ["The Gentleman's magazine" 1828, Volume 98 (New series No. 21) page 181 (Obituary section).] prints in full the eulogy on Hellins' life and achievements, given to a meeting of the Royal Society, by
Davies Gilbert, its President: One of those extraordinary men, who, deprived of early advantages, have elevated themselves, by the force of genius of industry, to a level above most persons blessed with regular education. ...
In 1787, he edited "The Young Algebracists Companion"... In 1788, he published "Mathematical Essays, on several subjects" and in 1802 in two volumes, "The Analytical Institutions", originally written in Italian, by Donna Maria Gaetana [Translated from the Italian Mr. Colson.]
Having adopted the clerical profession, Mr. Hellins was for some time curate of Constantine in Cornwall and, afterwards, of Greens Norton, Northamptonshire, but in 1790 he was presented by the Earl Bathurst to the vicarage of Potterspury in Northamptonshire. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1796, and in 1800 took the degree of B.D. at
Trinity College, Cambridge.
Mr. Hellins, at one time, computed the "Nautical Almanac". He afterwards assisted at Greenwich. And, what is now perhaps almost unknown, furnished the late Mr. Windham [
William Windham(1750–1810), Secretary at War 1794 to 1801.] with all the calculations and tables on which that gentleman brought forward his new military system, as Minister of War, in 1806.
Mr. Hellins applied himself with great industry to some of the useful branches of pure mathematics. No less than nine communications from him appear in our "Transactions":
*"On the summation of series."
*"On the conversion of slowly-converging series into others of swifter convergency."
*"On their application to the calculation of logarithms, and to the verifing of circular area."
*"On the roots of equations." And in 1798,
*"On method of computing with increased facility the planetary perturbations." For the last he was honoured with your Copley Medal. Retired to a small living in Northamptonshire, Mr. Hellins became a pattern of philosophical calm and content.
“Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife.His sober wishes never learned to stray.”He seems to have said—
“Curtatis decimis, modicoque beatus agello,Vitam secrete in rure quietus agam.”
I have known Mr. Hellins for above forty years, and I can testify to his virtues. It once happened that, through the late Dr. Maskelyne, I had nearly obtained for him the Observatory at
Dublin. The failure cannot, however, be lamented, since Brinkley was appointed in his stead.
Mr. Hellins also occasionally furnished Mathematical articles to the "
British Critic" ["The British Critic": A conservative review journal, launched in 1793. See ODNB article: ‘Beloe, William (1758–1817)’ ] , from the year 1795 to 1814. The most remarkable of these are those:
*On Mr. Wales' [William Wales: see ODNB article: ‘Wales, William (bap. 1734, d. 1798)’.] Method of finding the Longitude, Vol. 6. p. 413.
*On Bishop Horsley's Mathematical Treatises, Vol. 21. p. 272.
*On Donna Agnesi's Analytical Institutions, of which he superintended the publication, Vol. 23. p. 143; Vol. 24. p. 653 ; and 25. p. 141.
*On Keith's [Thomas Keith see ODNB article ‘Keith, Thomas (bap. 1759, d. 1824)’] Trigonometry, Vol. 31. p. 489.
*On F. Baily's work, on the Doctrine of Interest and Annuities, Vol. 38. p. 622, and Vol. 43. p. 502.
When the first series of the "British Critic" closed [The first series of the "British Critic" closed in 1813.] , the connection of Mr. Hellins with the work is supposed to have ceased. Several minor articles, on scientific subjects, were written by him, which are not here specified. He married Miss Brock, a
Devonshirelady, who survived him but a short time, and by whom he hath left an only son.
"In Memory ofThe REVD. JOHN HELLINS, B.D. & F.R.S./ upwards of 36 years Vicar of this parish, who died April 5th 1827/ aged 78 years./ of ANNE HELLINS his widow, who died June 3rd 1827. Aged 72. [ [http://www.potterspury.org.uk/fhs/mi/St.Nicholas.htm Potterspury village website.] ] [ [http://www.johnhellinsprimary.ik.org/pub/CustomerSites/Schools/utt-011230154609.nsf/0/0F05D01F3961FF028025707D003B3475?OpenDocument&prodid=&add=yes Photograph of his grave] ] .
References and Sources
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
**John Hellins: R. E. Anderson, ‘Hellins, John (d. 1827)’, rev. Adrian Rice, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12873 Link to article in ODNB] accessed 30 May 2007.
**William Wales: E. I. Carlyle, ‘Wales, William (bap. 1734, d. 1798)’, rev. Derek Howse, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/28457 Link to article in ODNB] accessed 20 Aug 2007
**Thomas Keith: W. A. J. Archbold, ‘Keith, Thomas (bap. 1759, d. 1824)’, rev. Ruth Wallis, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/15274 Link to article in ODNB] , accessed 20 Aug 2007
**William Beloe: Antonia Forster, ‘Beloe, William (1758–1817)’, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/2065 Link to article in ODNB] accessed 21 Aug 2007. Beloe was one of the proprietors of "The British Critic".
"Note": ODNB is a subscription service. Many people have free access to ODNB though their University, college or school or, if in the UK, through their public library.
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