BSHM Gazetteer -- LONDON People N-R

Main Gazetteer A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | London | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Bibliography & Acknowledgements


Written by David Singmaster (zingmast@sbu.ac.uk ). Links to relevant external websites are being added occasionally to this gazetteer but the BSHM has no control over the availability or contents of these links. Please inform the BSHM Webster (A.Mann@gre.ac.uk) of any broken links.

[When the gazetteer was edited for serial publication in the BSHM Newsletter, references were omitted since the bibliography was too substantial to be included. Publication on the web permits references to be included for material now being added to the website, but they are still absent from material originally prepared for the Newsletter - TM, August 2002]

Because of its size, the London section of the Gazetteer is divided into eight pages: the main index page; scientific institutions and societies; the British Museum, British Library and Science Museum; other institutions and places; and mathematical people: A - C, D - G, H - M, N - R (this page) and S - Z. Inevitably these categories are somewhat arbitrary so use of the index page and / or the Search facility is recommended.

 

Contents of this page

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A number of descendents of John Napier were prominent in the 19C. Lady Sarah Napier was married to a descendent and was the mother of General Sir Charles James Napier (1782-1853), the conqueror of Sind who has a statue at SW corner of Trafalgar Square and monument in St. Paul's. Lady Sarah lived at 13 (now 40) Cadogan Place, Chelsea. [Edmonds, below, p.29.] The general's younger brother, General Sir William Francis Napier (1785-1860), the historian of the Peninsular War, lived at Scinde House, now Victoria House, 84 Kings Avenue, Clapham Park, in 1849-1860.


Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was Warden of the Mint from 1696 to 1699 while he supervised the complete remaking of the silver coinage. From 1699 until his death in 1727, he was Master of the Mint, a less responsible, but better paid, job. He may have lived briefly in the Warden's Residence, which was in the Tower, near the Jewel Tower, or he may have lived in the west side of the Bell Tower, or he may have lived nearby in Haydon Square, in the Minories. [Dyer; Eastman, p.268; Craig, p.13] He moved to 88 Jermyn St., just south of Piccadilly, from 1697 to 1700. He then moved next door to 87 Jermyn St. (Blue Plaque), where he stayed until 1709. He spent a year at Ship House, which was on the site of the present Durham House, Durham Terrace, Chelsea in 1709-1710 [Craig, pp.28 & 76, Richard Edmonds, Chelsea From the Five Fields to the World's End, Phene Press, London, 1956, p.66]. He later lived in a house on the site of the Westminster Central Reference Library in St. Martin's St., off Leicester Sq., apparently as a town house. In 1834, there was a proposal to preserve this house in a colossal truncated pyramid with a sphere on top [Lucinda Lambton, An Album of Curious Houses, Chatto & Windus, 1988, p.157]. The house was demolished in 1913, but the fore parlour was re-erected at the Babson Institute in the USA [Archibald (2), p.84]. There is a wall inscription on the Library saying Newton lived here from 1710 to 1727 [Eddie Mizzi has provided a photo]. There is a plaque on the adjacent Orange Street Congregational Church stating that Newton's house was built in 1710. ([Eastman, p.268] seems to indicate that the Church building is 35 St. Martin's Street and was Newton's actual house.) In Long's Court, beside the Library, is a doorway labelled 'The Newton Institute', but the Institute is now defunct and is used as a church hall.

He retired to and died at Bullingham House (or Pitt's Buildings [Craig, p. 29]), later called Orbell's Buildings, now the site of Newton Court, near the corner of Duke's Lane and Pitt Street, off Kensington Church Street [Mitton, pp.67‑69]. ([Eastman, p.268] says Bellingham Mansions, Kensington Church Street, occupy the site of Newton's house.) [Barbara Denny & Carolyn Starren, Kensington and Chelsea in Old Photographs, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Alan Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 1995, p.54] shows Bullingham Mansions, Kensington Church Street, "on the site of the house where it is popularly supposed Sir Isaac Newton spent his last years." Newton Court faces onto Kensington Church Street. [Open House booklet 1999] says the Carmelite Monastery at 41 Kensington Church Street was built on Newton's garden. There is a 'medical window' depicting miracles of healing in nearby St. Mary Abbots Kensington which was presented by the Royal College of Surgeons and others in memory of local worthies and Newton is included in the inscription at the bottom [Rosemary Rowles, St. Mary Abbots The Parish Church of Kensington, Pitkin, 1992, unpaginated, p.6 counting the front cover as p.1; St Mary Abbots: A Brief Description, undated leaflet from the Church.]

In the southwest corner of the garden of Leicester Square is a rather decayed bust of Newton with relevant inscriptions. This was knocked over in about 1987, but has been restored. Statues on the facade of the Museum of Mankind, Burlington Gardens, and of old City of London School, Victoria Embankment. The old City of London School building had a window of Newton in its Great Hall, but I don't know if this is extant. There is a bust above the entrance to former Royal Society rooms in Somerset House, on the left of the main vestibule. A new version of Eduardo Paolozzi's Newton monument has been made for the British Library and was unveiled on 10 Sep 1997. He is included in the mural at the Royal Society of Arts. There was a bust at Kew, later moved to Kensington Palace [A. Q. Morton, pp.29-30]. A statuette of Newton is in Kensington Central Library [Charles White, The Royal Borough of Kensington [Handbook], 10th ed., Ed. J. Burrow & Co., Cheltenham, nd [c1946], p. 34].

He was also commemorated on the 1 note, which ceased in 1985.

The oldest 'Newton' apple tree, grown from a cutting from the original at Woolsthorpe, is in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. A piece of the original tree is in the Royal Astronomical Society.

Other memorabilia are in the Royal Society, qv, and he is buried in Westminster Abbey, qv.

The optician Henry Shuttleworth used a 'Sign of Sir Isaac Newton and Two Pair of Golden Spectacles' for his shop at 23 Ludgate Street.

Cf Jones above.


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Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was a private student of Sylvester's. She called herself 'a passionate statistician', much impressed by the work of Quetelet. She was a pioneer in the use of statistics in hospitals. She exerted a great deal of effort in designing standard forms for hospital reports and trying to obtain uniformity in their use. In 1860, she and Dr. Farr (Registrar General) made up the program for the Sanitary Statistics section of the International Statistical Congress in London. She entertained many of the participants and the Congress expressed its approval of her work. In 1861, the Metropolitan Hospitals agreed to adopt a standard registration and record system, but little came of it. She also tried to get more questions onto the census forms. [Richard Francis Mould, More of Mould's Medical Anecdotes, Adam Hilger, Bristol, 1989, pp.233-242] She is commemorated by a statue on the Guards' Crimea monument in Waterloo Place at Pall Mall, showing her with a most inappropriate lamp, and panels around the base. The original plaster was at St. Thomas's Hospital, which she helped to design, and was replaced with a bronze version in 1958, but it was stolen in 1970 and has been replaced by a cast in less valuable material. [Blackwood, pp.164-165]. A Florence Nightingale Museum has recently opened under the Nightingale Nurses' Home in the corner of St. Thomas's Hospital.

In August 1853, she became Superintendent of the charitable Hospital for Invalid Gentlewomen (?? I have seen two other similar names) at 1 Upper Harley Street (now part of Harley Street itself). She lived at what is now 47 Harley Street, which is her only extant London residence. In August 1854, when the Broad St. cholera epidemic broke out, she went to help at Middlesex Hospital.

Went to the Crimea in Oct/Nov 1854 with 38 nurses. On her return in Aug 1856, she stayed in the Burlington Hotel, Old Burlington Street, Westminster, until 1861. From 1865, she moved to 10 South Street, Mayfair, and lived there until her death there. The house was replaced by an office block in 1929, but there is a Blue Plaque on the site. [Eastman, p.269] Memorial in the Crypt of St. Paul's [Culbertson & Randall, p.156]. She is also commemorated on the current 10 note.


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Henry Oldenburg (1619-1677) came to London on a diplomatic mission in 1653. He became a friend of Samuel Hartlib and started an extensive correspondence with scientists all over Europe. An original FRS. First secretary of the RS from 1662 to 1677, sometimes with Wilkins. His speciality was dealing with overseas correspondence. He was a good linguist and translated to and from English or Latin for both RS members and their overseas correspondents. However, his extensive foreign correspondence led to suspicions and he was imprisoned in the Tower in 1667. In 1669, the RS granted him an annual salary of 40. Started the Phil. Trans. on 6 Mar 1665. This was originally owned by Oldenburg and was continued by Sloane, Halley, etc., until it was formally taken over by the RS in 1752. It is the oldest surviving scientific journal, starting just two months after the first scientific journal, the Journal des Savans. Died at Charlton.


Karl Pearson (1857-1936) was born in London. He has been recently commemorated by a Blue Plaque on his house at 7 Well Road, Hampstead, in north London.


John Pell (1611-1685) was in London, c1638-1643, with Samuel Hartlib's group. He did not want to take holy orders, so he had to go to Amsterdam to find a teaching post in mathematics. He became Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1661 [Ball (5), p.40] or to Gilbert Sheldon, Bishop of London sometime after the Restoration [DSB]). In the former case, he might have lived in Lambeth Palace. An original FRS in 1663. The DSB says he lived for a time at Brereton Hall, but doesn't indicate where that is. (A Brereton was a founder fellow of the Royal Society.) He died in London. The equation x2 - ay2 = 1 is known as Pell's equation, though a form of it occurs in Archimedes and the Indian mathematicians of the first millennium had found a general method to find solutions. Even in the modern era, Fermat had anticipated Pell, but Pell did have an early discussion of an example in 1659 and Euler seems to have adopted Pell's name for it. It is a common equation and which occurs in many aspects of mathematics. Cf Brouncker, above.


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Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), though not a scientist, was an active member of the early Royal Society and PRS in 1684-1686, giving the imprimatur for the publication of Newton's Principia. MP for Harwich. He was born in a house on the site of Westminster Bank, Salisbury Court, off Fleet Street, EC4 (City Plaque) - [Day] says the plaque is on the White Swan, but in 1999 I found the plaque on the side of the Reuters Building. Went to St. Paul's School and Magdalene College, Cambridge. Lived in Axe Yard, about where King Charles Street meets Parliament Street, in 1658-1660 (Parliament Street is the south end of Whitehall). In mid 1660, he was appointed Clerk of the Acts to the Navy, through the influence of his cousin, Sir Edward Montagu, made Earl of Sandwich at the Restoration. He then worked at the Navy Office, which was on the site of the garden of the Port of London Authority, Seething Lane, City of London, EC3, NW of the Tower (City Plaque) and lived in one of the adjacent houses in 1660-1679. (There is now a Pepys Street off Seething Lane.) His famous Diary [Pepys] runs from 1 Jan 1660 to 31 May 1669 - see Brouncker, Moore, Morland, Petty for some quotes. He became Secretary of the Admiralty in 1673. An inveterate book-collector, he is the first person known to have glass-fronted bookcases made - getting his first on 17 Aug 1666 - they are at Magdalene College, Cambridge, qv. In 1662, as a 29-year old civil servant, he discovered he needed to know arithmetic which had not been taught at his school or college. He began to learn the 'times table', tutored by a ship's mate. "Up by four o'clock, and at my multiplication-table hard, which is all the trouble I meet withal in my arithmetique." (9 Jul 1662). "Up by four o'clock, and hard at my multiplication-table, which I am now almost master of." (11 Jul 1662). Jonas Moore was a friend and Pepys has: "Up, and to my chamber, whither Jonas Moore comes, ... and tells me the mighty use of Napier's bones" [Pepys, 26 Sep 1667]. In 1679, he was suspected of complicity in 'The Popish Plot', attacked in Parliament and spent six weeks (or three months) in the Tower, but was restored to his posts in 1684 (or 1683). He then lived with William Hewer at 12 Buckingham Street, Charing Cross (Blue Plaque) from 1679 to 1688 - this is the only Pepys house extant. He later lived (with Hewer?) at 14 Buckingham Street, now known as York Buildings (Blue Plaque on the site), from 1688. After the 1688 Revolution, he was again out of favour and retired. In 1700, he removed to Will Hewer's country house, at 29 Clapham Common Northside, since replaced by Charles Barry's mansion (Blue Plaque) which is now part of Trinity Hospice. He died there. [Dakers, pp.207-208.]

He and his wife are buried in St. Olave's Church, Hart Street (at the N end of Seething Lane), by the communion table [Greenwood (2), pp. 258-259].

Hewer is buried in St. Paul's, Clapham.

Prince Henry's Room, 17 Fleet Street, is a pub with Pepys memorabilia. The Samuel Pepys pub is at Brooks Wharf, 48 Upper Thames Street.

[Eastman, pp.269-270.] Portrait by Kneller in the National Maritime Museum.


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Sir William Petty (1623-1687), born in Romsey (see Section 6-A), variously studied medicine and chemistry at Caen, Paris and Oxford. Inventor of one of the first letter-copying machines in 1648. A founder of the RS at Oxford, c1650, and an original Fellow. Gresham Professor of Music in 1650‑1651 and Professor of Anatomy at Oxford in 1651. Physician-General to the army in Ireland in 1652. Surveyed 2,800,000 acres of forfeited lands for Cromwell, earning a penny per acre, and produced a detailed map of Ireland in 1654-1671. This was the first systematic survey of an extended area, using angle measurement and a surveyor's chain, requiring 1000 assistants, and being the forerunner of the Ordnance Survey. He used 6 inches to the mile for mapping the countryside - the same scale as later used by the Ordnance Survey until metrication changed it slightly. The result was Hiberniae Delinatio of 1671, generally known as Petty's Atlas, and it showed Ireland was dramatically different in size and shape than shown on any previous map. Kt in 1662. Pepys described him as "the most intelligent man I know" - I can't find this in [Pepys], but on 27 Jan 1663/64 he says Petty is "one of the most rational men that ever I heard speak". See under Kerry, for other activities in Ireland. In 1676, he produced a new edition of John Graunt's Observations ... upon the Bills of Mortality. His ... Essay in Political Arithmetick of 1683 is considered the foundation of political economy. Proposed central registry office - not implemented until c1800. Predicted the population of London would reach 5,359,000 in 1800 and 10,718,880 in 1840, but there were only 830,000 in 1800. Prolific proposer and inventor, e.g. of the catamaran and of double-bottomed ships. Built a house at Tokenbury Yard, Lothbury, but this may have been lost in the GF. MP. At the time of his death he was living on the east side of Sackville Street, Piccadilly. The Marquis of Lansdowne is a descendent - William Petty, grandson(?) of the above, was instrumental in negotiating the peace settlement to the American War of Independence and was made Marquis in 1784. See under Calne for a monument to him. [Timbs II-352/355; John Paddy Browne, 'The Romsey man who mapped Ireland for Cromwell', Hampshire (Nov 1980) 61, 64.]


Franois-André Danican Philidor (1726-1795), the first of the modern chess masters, spent much of his life in London and died here [Golombek].


Henry Thomas Herbert Piaggio (1884-1967) was born in London and attended City of London School.


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Joseph Pound (?-1724), Vicar of Wanstead, was one of the leading astronomers of the 18C. He was a major influence on his nephew James Bradley, qv above, who took over the Wanstead observatory after the uncle's death in 1724 and used it until 1742 when he became 3rd Astronomer Royal. [Low, pp.33-36.]


Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was a regular visitor to London, becoming friends with Franklin in 1766 who encouraged his interests in science. FRS, 1766. Discovered that carbon conducts electricity. History of Electricity, 1767. Copley Medal RS, 1773, for his discovery of carbon dioxide and how to make carbonated beverages. At that time he had also discovered hydrochloric acid as a gas, nitrous oxide, nitric oxide and carbonic oxide (CO2??) and he had isolated nitrogen. Discovered oxygen (1774), ammonia, sulphur dioxide and silicon tetrafluoride at Bowood House, Calne, qv. (In fact, Scheele had discovered oxygen in the same way in 1771, but his book did not appear until 1777. In the meantime, Priestley had discovered oxygen and published his work. The full understanding of oxygen was developed by Lavoisier after Priestley told him about it in 1774. Lavoisier coined the name 'oxygen' and did not acknowledge Priestley's work.) Came to London in 1791, after a riot had burned his Birmingham house. Became minister of the Gravel Pit Chapel, Hackney. Lectured at Hackney College on history and chemistry. He was generally shunned by scientists because of his Dissenting views which were not popular. Left for America in 1794. Blue Plaque at Ram Place, Hackney. Statue at Royal Institute of Chemistry. [Jaffee, pp.39, 48-49 & 106; DNB; Bowood House leaflet; Letter from the Curator of Bowood House; GLC]


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Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) arrived in England on 14 Apr 1914 and was met at the dock by E. H. Neville. He stayed a few days at the National India Association at 21 Cromwell Road - a body intended to assist Indian students coming to England, but generally failing in this. [Kanigel, pp.199-200 with photo of p. 214f.]

By Oct 1918, he was staying at a private hospital in Fitzroy Square. [Rankin (2); Kanigel, p.300].

From about Nov 1918, he was staying at a nursing home at Colinette House, 2 Colinette Road, Putney, southwest London. It was in 1919 (possibly January), when Hardy made the famous visit in the taxicab numbered 1729. The house is no longer used as a nursing home and its name has vanished. On 13 Mar he set sail for Bombay. [Hardy. Rankin. Kanigel, p.311-313.]


Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800) came to London as an apprentice to Burton, a mathematical instrument maker, in 1758. Set up on his own in 1762. Married Sarah Dollond, daughter of John Dollond (see above) in 1765 (or 1766). Inventor of circular dividing engines. The first to use vernier scales on circular instruments. For the triangulation of southeast England, Ramsden designed and built the cased glass tubing and a coffered steel chain, used for two of the three measurements of the base line in 1784. He also designed and built a new theodolite, 3 ft in diameter and weighing 200 lbs. This was completed in 1787 and the triangulation was completed in 1789 - see Roy, below. It could read a mark 70 miles away with an error of only 2 seconds. It continued in use until 1853, and then was stored in the Ordnance Survey's Office in Southampton, where it was destroyed in WW2. FRS, 1786. However, Ramsden was such a perfectionist that most of instruments were delayed. Roy was so annoyed that the drafts of his reports contain many derogatory references to Ramsden which were deleted from the published forms. George III once remarked that Ramsden appeared at Buckingham Palace at the appointed day and hour, but a year late! [Yolande O'Donoghue, William Roy 1726-1790 Pioneer of the Ordnance Survey, British Library, 1977.]


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Lord Rayleigh, John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh (1842-1919). FRS, 1873. Succeeds to his title and estates in 1873 and builds a laboratory at his house, Terling Place, Witham, Essex (qv). Much of his work was done there or at Cambridge (qv). Sec RS, 1885-1896. Prof. Natural Philosophy, RI, 1887‑1905, during which period he spent much of his time in London. An interference apparatus of his is in the RI Ambulatory.

In 1882, he discovered that atomic weights are not integral multiples of the weight of hydrogen. This led him to examine the atomic weight of nitrogen and he found that nitrogen prepared from ammonia had a density of 1.251 grams per litre, while nitrogen obtained by removing the oxygen, water vapour and carbon dioxide from the air had a density of 1.257 grams per litre and the difference could not be explained by experimental error. He put forward a number of possible explanations and showed that none of them could be correct. c1894, Dewar recalls Cavendish's residual gas and tells Rayleigh.

1892‑1894, Ramsay, starts to work on the nitrogen problem and recalls Cavendish's residual gas and examines the air residue spectroscopically, discovering argon. A flask used by Rayleigh in the discovery is in the lobby to the RI Lecture Theatre, though his final work was carried out at his home laboratory at Terling Place. On 31 Jan 1895, Rayleigh and Ramsay presented their joint paper: Argon, a new constituent of the atmosphere to the RS. Not everyone believed it - how could so heavy an element be a gas? Rayleigh replied: "The result is no doubt very awkward ... and all we can do is apologize for ourselves and the gas." Rayleigh received the Copley Medal RS, 1899 for this work and the two of them received the Nobel Prizes for Physics and for Chemistry, respectively, in 1904.

Rayleigh was a passenger on Hiram Maxim's (qv) demonstration of a steam powered airplane on 31 Jul 1894. He described his ride as 'decidedly sensational' to the British Association 10 days later and went on to propose a helicopter.

Founder member OM, 1902. Nobel Prize in Physics in 1904 for discovery of argon. PRS, 1905‑10. PC, 1905. Major founder and supporter of the National Physical Laboratory, qv, during 1895-1919.

Died and buried at Terling. Memorial medallion in St. Andrew's Chapel, Westminster Abbey.

[Hackmann, p.67; A. T. Humphrey, 'Lord Rayleigh - the last of the great Victorian polymaths', Bull. Inst. Math. Appl. 31:7/8 (Jul/Aug 1995) 113-120]


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Robert Recorde (c1510-1558) was the inventor of the = sign, in his Grounde of Artes, 1540, which also introduced the + and - signs to England. He died in the Old King's Bench Prison, to the north of the old graveyard of St. George the Martyr which is across Tabard Street to the north of the church. (Cf Cocker, above, for the church.) There was a Southwark plaque commemorating the prison at 203-205 Borough High Street [Southwark]. There are remains of the later Marshalsea Prison on the site (Southwark plaque formerly on 207 Borough High Street [Southwark]), visible if you go down Angel Place, the next entry north of Tabard Place. (The King's Bench Prison was later on the west side of Borough High Street at the corner of Borough Road (Southwark plaque formerly on Queen's Buildings, Borough Road) [Southwark].)


Lewis Fry Richardson (1881-1953) joined Westminster Training College in 1919 or 1920. He lived in Golders Green.


Edward Riddle (1788-1854) came to London in 1821 as master of the mathematical school at the Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich. He had been recommended by Hutton and later edited Hutton's translation of Ozanam.


Peter Rigaud (1774-1839), astronomer and mathematician, was Co-observer at Kew, with his uncle Stephen Demainbray, from 1814. Lived at 21 Richmond Green, 1815-1826. [Richmond: Notes on Local History, no. 37.]


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Benjamin Robins (1707-1751) came to London after school and began study of higher mathematics, publishing a paper on Newton's Treatise of Quadratures in the Phil. Trans. of 1727. FRS, 1727. Established laws of colliding bodies which had eluded Jean Bernoulli. Supported himself by private teaching, but shifted to studying engineering. Continued writing on mechanics, but also was a political pamphleteer. Unsuccessful applicant for the professorship of fortification at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich in 1741, but he wrote Principles of Gunnery in support of his application and it was published in 1742. It was translated into German and annotated by Euler. 1742 - invents the ballistic pendulum and describes it to the RS. Copley Medal RS, 1747. Edited Anson's A Voyage round the World in the Years 1740-1744, volume 1 of which appeared in 1748. Studied rockets and published papers on them. In 1749, he was appointed Engineer-General to the East India Company, arriving there in 1750. He died of a fever just a year later and the manuscript of vol. 2 of Anson's Voyage was never found. A collection of his works was published in 2 volumes in 1761 and became a standard text, with a second edition edited by Hutton in 1805. [S.C. Brown, p.25; DNB]


Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), physician, thesaurist, discoverer of the persistence of vision and inventor of the log‑log scale for slide rules, lived at 39 Bernard St., Bloomsbury, (gone), in 1808‑1843, and at 18 Upper Bedford Place (now Bedford Way) in 1843‑1869 [Eagle & Carnell, pp.167, 170]. Secretary of the Royal Society in 1827-1849.


Sir Ronald Ross (1857-1932), best known for showing that malaria was transmitted by mosquitoes (Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1902), was also a poet and a mathematician who studied functional iteration. He lived at 18 Cavendish Square (Blue Plaque) and in Putney (where there is a school named for him). He is also commemorated in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


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William Roy (1726-1790) spent 1747-1755 mapping Scotland as a civilian working for the army, then joined the army, rising to major-general. Made an extensive study of Roman military remains in the next 20 years, posthumously published as The Military Antiquities of the Romans in Britain by the Society of Antiquaries in 1793. Roy was FRS in 1767; FSA in 1776. Much of his military career was involved in quartermastering and he would have been frequently at the Quartermaster-General's Office at the Horse Guards, Whitehall, as well as being an Engineer for the Board of Ordnance, headquartered in the Tower of London. In 1763 and 1766, he proposed a 'general Survey of the whole Island at the public cost'. This was seriously considered by the government, but dropped due to the expense. In 1783, he made a small triangulation around Greenwich. In the same year, Cassini de Thury, then Director of the Paris Observatory, suggested to G3 the triangulation of southeast England which could be connected to the completed triangulation of northeast France to determine the disputed relative positions of the Paris and Greenwich Observatories. The suggestion was forwarded to Sir Joseph Banks, then PRS, who proposed that Roy carry out the project and Roy readily accepted. (Roy had been a member of Banks' dining club from 1775.)

The first operation was the laying out of a base line and Roy selected Hounslow Heath as a suitable location, not only for the southeast of England but also with an eye to extending the survey to the rest of the country. Starting on 16 Apr 1784 and continuing through the summer, a length of 27,404.72 feet was set out and measured three times - using cased glass tubing made by Ramsden, seasoned deal rods and a coffered steel chain made by Ramsden. The glass tubing was considered to be the most accurate, but the three measurements agreed to within three inches and the steel rods were later adopted as standard. Roy published this in the Phil. Trans. of the RS in 1785 and was awarded the RS Copley Medal on 30 Nov 1785. Roy realised that all the surveying instruments needed to be thoroughly redesigned to obtain the desired precision. In particular, Ramsden designed and built a new theodolite, 3 ft in diameter and weighing 200 lbs. This was completed in 1787 and the triangulation was completed in 1789. In 1787, the survey had reached the coast and a line was measured on Romney Marsh using Ramsden's steel chain and the measured length agreed with the calculated length to within a foot. Roy had estimated the cost of the triangulation as 1000, but over 2000 was spent. The Hounslow Heath base line was resurveyed in 1791 by Captain Williams, Mudge and Dalby, obtaining a value only 2 inches different and the average was accepted as the basic measurement. Roy also published two further papers in the Phil. Trans. of 1787 and 1790 - his three papers give the detailed procedure for carrying out accurate triangulation. His work led to the foundation of the Ordnance Survey in 1791 by the Duke of Richmond, Master General of the Ordnance. Roy's work should have led to finding the displacement between Greenwich and Paris, but I don't find his value given. In 1902, the value was found to be 9' 20.974" of time = 2o 20.2435' of angle.

In 1791, the original wooden pipes marking the ends of the base line were found to already be decayed and they were replaced by guns buried vertically. Bronze plates were attached to the guns in 1926 to commemorate the bicentenary of Roy's birth. The northwest end was in King's Arbour Field. The northwest gun was removed in 1944 due to expansion of Heathrow Airport. It was returned to its original position in 1972 - grid reference TQ 077767 - this is now in a parking lot of Heathrow Airport. The southeast gun has never been moved and is in Roy Grove, Hampton - grid reference TQ 137709.

Roy lived at 32-35 Great Pulteney Street in 1765-1779. He then moved to and later died at 10 (then 12) Argyll Street, Oxford Circus, from 1779 (Blue Plaque). The house is actually still there, but now has a stucco frontage. He was buried in the Parish of St. James, but there is no record of a burial at the church in Piccadilly, so he was probably buried in the burial ground in Hampstead Road, converted to St. James's Gardens, across from Robert Street, in 1887. No portrait of him is known.

[Yolande O'Donoghue, William Roy 1726-1790 Pioneer of the Ordnance Survey, British Library, 1977]


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Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was raised from the age of three in Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park, southwest London, which had been given to his grandfather, Lord John Russell, the Prime Minister, by Queen Victoria in 1847. He lived here from 1876 until 1894 and sometimes afterward. It is now a restaurant. In 1902-1904, Russell and Alys lived at 14 Cheyne Walk. In 1915-1916, he lived at 34 Russell Chambers, Bury Street, Westminster. T. S. Eliot stayed there. In 1916-1918, he was at 57 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, sharing with his older brother. Russell wrote Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919) while imprisoned for six months at Brixton Prison, south London, in 1918, for 'insulting an ally' in a pacifist article. The poor prison governor had to read the manuscript to ensure that it was not seditious! Russell was well treated - he reported that he read 200 books and wrote two. I somehow doubt that his cell can be visited, but it might be fun to try and get it made a listed site and have a Blue Plaque put on it! In 1921-1927, he and Dora lived at 36 Sydney Street, Chelsea. In 1950-1956, he lived at 41 Queen's Road, Richmond (plaque), with his son's family - he was on the upper two floors. In 1961, he was again in Brixton Prison for seven days for his anti-nuclear activities, being kept in the hospital due to his advanced age.[Eastman, pp. 273-274.]

The senior line of the Russell family are the Dukes of Bedford, who live at Woburn Abbey and have large estates near Tavistock, Devon. They are owners of most of Bloomsbury, where the University of London lies, and consequently the area abounds in sites named Russell, Bedford, Woburn, Tavistock and other names related to the family - e.g. the British Museum is in Great Russell Street, off Russell Square. Francis Russell, 5th Duke, has a statue in Russell Square.



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Written by David Singmaster. Last updated on 28th February 2003 by TM (A.Mann@gre.ac.uk). Copyright © BSHM and David Singmaster 1998 - 2003. All rights reserved.


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