John Theophilus Desaguliers

John Theophilus Desaguliers

Overview
John Theophilus Desaguliers (12 March 1683 – 29 February 1744) was a natural philosopher born in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. He was a member of the Royal Society of London beginning 29 July 1714. He was presented with the Royal Society's highest honour, the Copley Medal
Copley Medal
The Copley Medal is an award given by the Royal Society of London for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science, and alternates between the physical sciences and the biological sciences"...

, in 1734, 1736 and 1741, with the 1741 award being for his discovery of the properties of electricity. He studied at Oxford, became experimental assistant to Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

, and later popularized Newtonian theories and their practical applications.
He has been credited as the inventor of the planetarium
Planetarium
A planetarium is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky, or for training in celestial navigation...

, on the basis of some plans he published.

Born in La Rochelle
La Rochelle
La Rochelle is a city in western France and a seaport on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Charente-Maritime department.The city is connected to the Île de Ré by a bridge completed on 19 May 1988...

, Desaguliers was an immigrant to England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 from France.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'John Theophilus Desaguliers'
Start a new discussion about 'John Theophilus Desaguliers'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
John Theophilus Desaguliers (12 March 1683 – 29 February 1744) was a natural philosopher born in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. He was a member of the Royal Society of London beginning 29 July 1714. He was presented with the Royal Society's highest honour, the Copley Medal
Copley Medal
The Copley Medal is an award given by the Royal Society of London for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science, and alternates between the physical sciences and the biological sciences"...

, in 1734, 1736 and 1741, with the 1741 award being for his discovery of the properties of electricity. He studied at Oxford, became experimental assistant to Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

, and later popularized Newtonian theories and their practical applications.
He has been credited as the inventor of the planetarium
Planetarium
A planetarium is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky, or for training in celestial navigation...

, on the basis of some plans he published.

Biography


Born in La Rochelle
La Rochelle
La Rochelle is a city in western France and a seaport on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Charente-Maritime department.The city is connected to the Île de Ré by a bridge completed on 19 May 1988...

, Desaguliers was an immigrant to England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 from France. He was born into a Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

 (Protestant) family and fled to England not at the age of 11 (1694) but as an infant (1683) to escape the consequences of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, and succeeded Dr John Keill in reading lectures on experimental philosophy at Hart Hall. He was the first who introduced the reading of lectures in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, where he had for his auditors not only the learned and the great, but also George I
George I of Great Britain
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

 and George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

 and the royal family. In 1714, he was chosen a member of the Royal Society, to whose Transactions he communicated some valuable papers. In 1718, he completed his degrees at Oxford as bachelor and doctor of laws. Desaguliers' reputation as a scientist was sealed not only by his three awards from the Royal Society, but also by publication of a two volume work entitled A Course of Experimental Philosophy. Publication of the first volume coincided with the year he first received the Copley Medal (1734), while the second volume's publication came 10 years later in 1744, the year of his death. The first volume concerns theoretical and practical mechanics with an explanation of the basics of Newtonian physics. The second volume contains material oriented toward practical application of scientific findings. Following upon the work of Stephen Gray
Stephen Gray (scientist)
Stephen Gray was an English dyer and amateur astronomer, who was the first to systematically experiment with electrical conduction, rather than simple generation of static charges and investigations of the static phenomena....

, he introduced the term "conductor" for things such as metals which conduct electricity, to which an electrified glass tube conveyed the electric charge.

An inventor as well as a scientist, Desaguliers improved upon the steam engine
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

 design of Thomas Savery
Thomas Savery
Thomas Savery was an English inventor, born at Shilstone, a manor house near Modbury, Devon, England.-Career:Savery became a military engineer, rising to the rank of Captain by 1702, and spent his free time performing experiments in mechanics...

 through the addition of a safety valve
Safety valve
A safety valve is a valve mechanism for the automatic release of a substance from a boiler, pressure vessel, or other system when the pressure or temperature exceeds preset limits....

. He also designed methods for heating liquid boilers with steam rather than fire, presumably increasing their safety significantly.

Additionally, Desaguliers was a Freemason, elected as the third Grand Master in 1719, Deputy Grand Master in 1723 and 1725 of the newly formed Premier Grand Lodge of England
Premier Grand Lodge of England
The Premier Grand Lodge of England was founded on 24 June 1717 as the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster and it existed until 1813 when it united with the Ancient Grand Lodge of England to create the United Grand Lodge of England. It was the first Masonic Grand Lodge to be created...

.

Role as priest and hydraulic engineer at Cannons


Desaguliers was also a priest in the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

. Through the patronage of James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos
James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos
James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos, MP, PC was the first of fourteen children by Sir James Brydges, 3rd Baronet of Wilton Castle, Sheriff of Herefordshire, 8th Baron Chandos; and Elizabeth Barnard...

, he was nominated in 1714 to the living
Benefice
A benefice is a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services. The term is now almost obsolete.-Church of England:...

 of St Lawrence's church, Little Stanmore (sometimes called Stanmore Parva, or Whitchurch
Whitchurch, London
Little Stanmore is a locality in the London Borough of Harrow in London, England.-Toponymy:Little Stanmore was named to distinguish it from Great Stanmore, which is now known as Stanmore. The parish was also known as Whitchurch. Whitchurch is a common English place-name meaning 'white church', and...

), then in Middlesex
Middlesex
Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

. His duties as a parish priest were combined with being chaplain to the Duke, as St Lawrence's church was at the edge of the duke's estate, Canons Park
Canons Park
Canons Park is a residential suburb of London, situated in the north west London Borough of Harrow. It is located to the south of Stanmore, the west of Edgware, and the east of Wealdstone.-Etymology and history:...

.
The church was rebuilt in the baroque style in 1715. As the chapel at Cannons
Cannons (house)
Cannons was a stately home in Little Stanmore, Middlesex built for James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos between 1713 and 1724 at a cost of £200,000 but which in 1747 was razed and its contents dispersed....

 was not completed until 1720, the church was the location of first performances of the so-called Chandos Anthems by George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

, who was in 1717/18, like Desaguliers, a member of the Duke's household.

The Canons estate benefited from Desaguliers' scientific expertise which was applied to the elaborate water garden there. He also technical adviser to an enterprise in which Chandos had invested, the York Buildings Company
York Buildings Company
The York Buildings Company was an English company in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.-Waterworks:The full name of the company was The Governor and Company for raising the Thames Water at York Buildings...

, which used steam-power to extract water from the Thames. In 1718 Desaguliers dedicated to the Duke his translation of Edme Mariotte
Edme Mariotte
Edme Mariotte was a French physicist and priest.- Biography :Edme Mariotte was the youngest son of Simon Mariotte, administrator at the district Til-Châtel , and Catherine Denisot . His parents lived in Til-Châtel and had 4 other children: Jean, Denise, Claude, and Catharine...

's treatise on the motion of water. It is perhaps no coincidence that in the summer of 1718 the composer Handel, Desaguliers' colleague at Cannons, composed his opera Acis and Galatea for performance there. In this work the hero Acis is turned into a fountain, and since, by tradition, the work was first performed outside on the terraces overlooking the garden, a connection with Desaguliers' new water works seems probable.

Desaguliers appears to have been distracted from his parochial duties by his other interests, and the Duke complained that there were unreasonable delays in burying the dead. However, despite falling out with his patron, Desaguliers retained the living until his death.

Portraits


There are at least three surviving portraits of Desaguliers dating to 1725 (42 years of age), all held by the National Portrait Gallery in London and available for on-line viewing.There is also a portrait by Desrochers

Personal life


On 14 October 1712 he married Joanna Pudsey, daughter of William and Anne Pudsey of Kidlington, near Oxford. They had four sons and three daughters, for most of whom they acquired aristocratic godparents, but only two children survived beyond infancy: John Theophilus (1718–1751) graduated from Oxford, became a clergyman, and died childless, while Thomas Desaguliers (1721–1780) led a distinguished scientific military career. On 1 April 1748 he became chief firemaster at the Arsenal
Royal Arsenal
The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, originally known as the Woolwich Warren, carried out armaments manufacture, ammunition proofing and explosives research for the British armed forces. It was sited on the south bank of the River Thames in Woolwich in south-east London, England.-Early history:The Warren...

, Woolwich, a post which he held until the end of his life, and seems to have been the first to be employed by the English army to apply scientific principles to the production of cannon and the powers of gunnery. It was Thomas Desaguliers who designed and supervised the fireworks for the first performance of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks in Green Park.

Decline


Desaguliers had long suffered from gout
Gout
Gout is a medical condition usually characterized by recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis—a red, tender, hot, swollen joint. The metatarsal-phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe is the most commonly affected . However, it may also present as tophi, kidney stones, or urate...

 every winter, and died after several months of severe illness at his home in the Bedford Coffee House, Covent Garden
Covent Garden
Covent Garden is a district in London on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St. Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It is associated with the former fruit and vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and the Royal Opera House, which is also known as...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, on 29 February 1744; he was buried on 6 March in the Savoy Chapel
Savoy Chapel
The Savoy Chapel or the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy is a chapel off the Strand, London, dedicated to St John the Baptist. It was originally built in the medieval era off the main church of the Savoy Palace...

, Savoy Street, London.

Further reading

  • Baker, C. H. Collins, and BaKer, Muriel (1949) James Brydges First Duke of Chandos Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • Carpenter, A, (2011), John Theophilus Desaguliers: A Natural Philosopher, Engineer and Freemason in Newtonian England, (London: Contnuum), ISBN-10: 144112778X; ISBN-13: 978-1441127785
  • Carpenter, A. and Pink, A. (2006) The letters of James Brydges Earl of Carnarvon and later Duke of Chandos (1674–1744) to John Theophilus Desaguliers (1683–1744). An ongoing web project: UCL
    University College London
    University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

     and Loughborough
    Loughborough University
    Loughborough University is a research based campus university located in the market town of Loughborough, Leicestershire, in the East Midlands of England...

      universities, UK
  • Mackey, Albert G. (1966), An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, reprint edition, (Chicago:, The Masonic History Company).


 

External links