John Winthrop

Mathematician, Author

1714 – 1779

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Who was John Winthrop?

John Winthrop was the 2nd Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Harvard College. He was a distinguished mathematician, physicist and astronomer, born in Boston, Mass. His great-great-grandfather, also named John Winthrop, was founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He graduated in 1732 from Harvard, where, from 1738 until his death he served as professor of mathematics and natural philosophy. Professor Winthrop was one of the foremost men of science in America during the 18th century, and his impact on its early advance in New England was particularly significant. Both Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Thompson probably owed much of their early interest in scientific research to his influence. He also had a decisive influence in the early philosophical education of John Adams, during the latter's time at Harvard. He corresponded regularly with the Royal Society in London—as such, one of the first American intellectuals of his time to be taken seriously in Europe. He was noted for attempting to explain the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 as a scientific—rather than religious—phenomenon, and his application of mathematical computations to earthquake activity following the great quake has formed the basis of the claim made on his behalf as the founder of the science of seismology. Additionally, he observed the transits of Mercury in 1740 and 1761 and journeyed to Newfoundland to observe a transit of Venus. He traveled in a ship provided by the Province of Massachusetts - probably the first scientific expedition ever sent out by any incipient American state.

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Dec 19, 1714
  • United States of America
  • Harvard University
  • Harvard University
Lived in
  • Boston
May 3, 1779

on July 23, 2013


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