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Gascoigne, William

1. Dates
Born: ca. 1610
Died: battle of Marston Moor, Yorkshire, 2 July 1644
Dateinfo: cb
Lifespan: ca. 32
2. Father
Occupation: Gentry
Henry Gascoigne was a member of the gentry.
Clearly prosperous.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Oxford
Although there is no record of higher education, Gascoigne himself testified to study at Oxford. Like Horrocks at Cambridge, he found Oxford "destitute of mathematical learning."
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
There does not seem to be any explicit record. However, his father was apparently Catholic. One story about him related him to Jesuits. And his papers passed into the hands of the prominent Yorkshire Catholic family, the Towneleys. I don't feel any serious doubt that Gascoigne was Catholic.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy, Optics, Instrumentation
As an observer, Gascoigne found Lansberg's tables in error, and this led him to give serious attention to issues of observational accuracy.
In keeping with his interest in observational instruments, he was said to have a treatise of optics ready for the press, and an essay on optics did survive to be printed by Rigaud.
He contributed greatly to instrumentation. He is asserted to have been the first to make a telescope with two convex lenses. (A telescope, which survives, that he did make in late 1640 was a Galilean type.) He invented methods of grinding glasses. Most important, he developed the first micrometer. He applied the telescope to the quadrant.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Per He Inherited Wealth.
8. Patronage
Type: None
I have not found any indications of it, though the details on his life are few.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Instruments
The invention of eyepiece micrometer, using a screw to measure the distance between two wires or plates inside the eyepiece, in order to measure small angles with precision.
The application of the telescope to the quadrant.
A lens grinding machine.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Informal Connections: Correspondence with J. Horrocks, W. Crabtree, W. Oughtred, and Christopher Towneley.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-1950), 7, 926. Philosophical Transactions, 27, 270-90, 30, 603-10, 48, 190-2.
  2. Robert McKeon, "Les débuts de l'astronomie de precision," Physis, 13 (1971), 225-88; 14 (1972), 221-42; especially 13, 256-69 and 14, 227-8.
  3. Allan Chapman, Three North Country Astronomers, (Manchester, 1982).
  4. S.B. Gaythorpe, "A Galilean Telescope Made about 1640 by William Gascoigne," Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 39 (l929), 238-41.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Allan Chapman, Dividing the Circle, (New York, 1990).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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