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Collins, John

1. Dates
Born: Wood Eaton, near Oxford, 5 March 1625
Died: London, 10 Nov. 1683
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 58
2. Father
Occupation: Cleric
He was a non-conformist minister who died no later than Collins' thirteenth birthday.
Stated to have been poor; he was unable to educate his son.
3. Nationality
Birth: England
Career: England
Death: England
4. Education
Schooling: No University
No university education. Studied mathematics, mostly while serving at sea, 1641-1649.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
Since nothing whatever is said, I take this as a guess. I saw nothing to indicate that he maintained his father's affiliation.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
Collins was important for his role as a mathematical intelligencer. He did publish some derivative mathematical works of his own, such as Doctrine of Decimal Arithmetick, 1664 (enlarged edition, 1685, posthumous).
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government
Secondary: Sailing, Schoolmastering
After the death of his parents, Collins was apprenticed in 1638 to a bookseller in Oxford.
Kitchen clerk at Court, 1641-2. It was here that he began to learn mathematics.
Seaman in the Venetian service, 1642-9. And it was during this period that he continued his education in mathematics.
Mathematics teacher in London, 1649-60.
Accountant of the Excise Office, c.1660-70.
Secretary to the Council of Plantations, 1670-2.
Manager of Farthing Office 1672- ? (not too long after 1672).
Accountant in Chancery.
Accountant to the Royal Fishing Company, after 1672 - death.
8. Patronage
Types: Gentry, Merchant, Aristrocrat
Sir Philip Warwick strongly recommended him to various offices during 1660s-1670s. (Source on patronage: Birch, History of Royal Society, 4, 232-4.)
Collins dedicated his book on navigation to the Governor and leaders of the East India Company.
The Earl of Shaftesbury used Collins' knowledge of accounting when Shaftesbury was Lord Chancellor.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Applied Mathematics, Navigation, Cartography, Hydraulics
Collins is said to have applied mathematics in business and administration. I assume that this refers to his publications on accounting, compound interest, annuities, etc.
He published on sundials, and also on navigational trigonometry.
There was also a book on the description and use of the quadrant, and a paper on cartography in the Philosophical Transactions.
Collins was appointed to consider a proposed canal between the Isis and the Avon. It was on the trip to Oxford in 1683 to view the lay of the land that he caught what proved to be his fatal illness.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
Collins was a mathematical intelligencer, whose correspondence with Barrow, Oldenburg, Newton, Willis, Bertet, Borelli, Huygens, Sluse, Leibniz, Tschirnhaus. et al., was a channel of communication between them. He saw a number of important mathematical texts through the press, especially Salusbury's Mathematical Collections, Horrocks' Works, and individual works by Wallis and Barrow.
Royal Society, 1667-83.
Sources
  1. Birch, History of Royal Society, 4, 232-4.
  2. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-1950), 4, 824-5. Anthony Wood, Fasti oxonienses, (attached with separate pagination to Athenae oxonienses, 4 vols. (London, 1813-20),) 2, 202-4.
  3. H.W. Turnbull, James Gregory Tercentenary Memorial Volume, (London, 1939), pp. 16-18. QA3 G822 H.S. Allen, "James Gregory, John Collins, and Some Early Scientific Instruments," Nature, 121 (1928), 456.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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1995 Al Van Helden
Last updated
 
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