Leonard Digges (scientist)

Leonard Digges (scientist)

:"For Leonard Digges's grandson, a minor poet by the same name, see Leonard Digges (writer)."

Infobox Scientist
name = Leonard Digges
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birth_date = 1520
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death_date = 1559, aged 39
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Leonard Digges (1520 – 1559), father of Thomas Digges, was a well-known mathematician and surveyor, credited with the inventions of the theodolite and telescope, and a great populariser of science through his publications in English. In a way, his son followed in his footsteps and was a pivotal player in the popularisation of Copernicus's book "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium".

The first publication of many by Leonard Digges was "A General Prognostication" published in 1553, which became a best-seller as it contained a perpetual calendar, collections of weather lore and a wealth of astronomical material, until then largely only obtainable through books published in Latin or Greek. It was revised in 1555 (the earliest surviving edition) and again in 1556 with the title "A Prognostication everlasting". Subsequent editions reprint the text from 1556; editions from 1576 and later include additional material by his son.

Leonard Digges is also sometimes credited with independently inventing the reflecting, and probably the refracting telescope as part of his need to see accurately over long distances during his surveying works. In the preface to the 1571 "Pantometria," (a book on measurement, partially based on his father's notes and observations) Leonard's son Thomas lauded his father's accomplishments. Some of the praise of the son for the father appears to be extravagant exaggeration, while other claims appear more credible. On the fifth page of the preface, Thomas Digges provides a remarkable account of his father's accomplishments:

[H] is divine mind aided with this science of Geometrical mensurations, found out the quantities, distances, courses, and strange intricate miraculous motions of these resplendent heavenly Globes of Sun, Moon, Planets and Stares fixed, leaving the rules and precepts thereof to his posterity. Archimedes also (as some suppose) with a glass framed by revolution of a section Parabolicall, fired the Roman navy in the sea coming to the siege of Syracuse. But to leave these celestial causes and things done of antiquity long ago, my father by his continual painful [painstaking] practices, assisted with demonstrations Mathematical, was able, and sundry times hath by proportional Glasses duly situate in convenient angles, not only discovered things far off, read letters, numbered pieces of money with the very coin and superscription thereof, cast by some of his friends of purpose upon downs in open fields, but also seven miles off declared what hath been done at that instant in private places.

In 1554, Leonard Digges took part in an unsuccessful rebellion led by the Protestant Sir Thomas Wyatt against England's new Catholic Queen Mary who took over the throne in 1553 from her father Henry VIII. Digges was condemned to death, but escaped capital punishment, instead forfeiting all his estates.


*Francis R. Johnson, “The Influence of Thomas Digges on the Progress of Modern Astronomy in Sixteenth-Century England,” "Osiris" 1 (January 1936): 390-410
*Johnson, Francis R. "Astronomical Thought in Renaissance England: A Study of the English Scientific Writings from 1500 to 1645," Johns Hopkins Press, 1937.
*Gribbin, John. 2002. "Science: A History," Penguin Books

External links

* [http://www.chocky.demon.co.uk/oas/diggeshistory.html Digges history]

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