William Derham

William Derham

William Derham (26 November 1657 - 5 April 1735)Marja Smolenaars, ‘Derham, William (1657–1735)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/7528, accessed 26 May 2007] ] was an English clergyman and natural philosopher. He was the first man known to measure the speed of sound.


Derham was the son of Thomas Derham. He was born at Stoulton in Worcestershire, England. He was educated at Blockley, Gloucestershire and at Trinity College, Oxford from 1675 to 1679. He was ordained on 29 May 1681. In 1682 he became vicar of Wargrave and from 1689 to 1735 he was rector at Upminster.


In 1696 he published his "Artificial Clockmaker", which went through several editions. The best known of his subsequent works are "Physico-Theology", published in 1713; "Astro-Theology", 1714; and "Christo-Theology", 1730. The first two of these books were teleological arguments for the being and attributes of God, and were used by Paley nearly a century later.

On 3 February 1703 Derham was elected fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1716 was made a canon of Windsor. He was Boyle lecturer in 1711-1712. His last work, entitled "A Defence of the Church's Right in Leasehold Estates", appeared in 1731.

Besides the works published in his own name, Derham, who was keenly interested in natural history, contributed a variety of papers to the "Transactions of the Royal Society", revised the "Miscellanea Curiosa", edited the correspondence of John Ray and Eleazar Albin's "Natural History", and published some of the manuscripts of Robert Hooke, the natural philosopher.


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