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Glanvill, Joseph

1. Dates
Born: Plymouth, 1636
Died: Bath, 4 Nov. 1680
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 44
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant
Glanvill was the third son of Nicholas Glanvill, a merchant in Plymouth.
No clear information on financial status. Glanvill went to Oxford as a battelar, a status above that of servitor, but I do not find this sufficient information for any judgment.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: Englsih
4. Education
Schooling: Oxford, M.A.
Oxford University, Exeter College, 1652-6; B.A., 1655. Lincoln College, 1656-8; M.A., 1658.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
Glanville was reared in a strict Puritan household. Apparently student years at Oxford freed him from this. It is hard to be sure just how far Glanvill operated from principle and how far from expediency. At any rate, he was ordained in 1660 and became an articulate defender of Latitudinarian Anglicanism. It appears that he was an Anglican throughout his whole adult life; I do not list the Puritan phase.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Natural Philosophy
Subordinate: Natural History
Glanville made a couple of minor contributions to natural history, about the mines and medicinal springs near Bath, in response to general enquiries about natural history published in the Philosophical Transactions.
His major work was in such books as Vanity of Dogmatizing, 1660, Scepsis scientifica (a later version of Vanity), 1664, and Plus Ultra, 1668, all defenses of the new natural philosophy, especially of experimental philosophy, against its detractors.
Apparently all of his works are vocally hostile toward Scholastic philosophy. Scepsis closes with a "Letter to a Friend, concerning Aristotle," an articulate expression of the age's turning away from Aristotle.
Philosophia pia; or, A Discourse of the Religious Temper and Tendencies of the Experimental Philosophy, 1671.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life
Secondary: Patronage
Glanvill was chaplain to Francis Rous, one of Cromwell's lords, 1658-9 (when Rouse died).
Rector of Wimbish, Essex, 1660-2.
Vicar of Frome Selwood, Somerstershire, 1662-72.
Rector of the Abbey Church at Bath, 1666-80. After 1666 Bath appears to have been Glanvill's seat. But note that he always held a second benefice at the same time.
Rector of the Streat and Walton, 1672-80. In 1672 he exchanged Frome Selwood for Streat and Walton.
Chaplain in ordinary to Charles II, 1672-80.
Received a prebend at Worcester, 1678.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat, Gentry, Eccesiastic Official
Glanvill came from fairly modest beginnings, and he was clearly on the make. He was forward in introducing himself to prominent people such as Richard Baxter, Robert Boyle, and the Duchess of Newcastle. He was profuse in the use of dedications. When he died, he left a goodly inheritance.
Invited by Francis Rous, one of Cromwell's lords and provost of Eton College, to live with him as his chaplain, from 1658 until Rous' death in 1659.
His brother, a prosperous merchant purchased the rectory of Wimbish for him in 1660. Despite the obvious analogies with patronage, I will not list this.
He dedicated Vanity of Dogmatizing to Joseph Maynard, Fellow and later Rector of Exeter College. Their connection is unknown, and Maynard did not reappear in Glanvill's later life.
Presented to the vicarage of Frome Selwood in 1662 by Sir James Thynne, and later to Streat and Walton. I am not aware that he dedicated anything to Thynne.
He dedicated Lux orientalis, 1662, to Francis Willughby, Esq. I am pretty sure this is John Ray's patron.
He dedicated Scepsis scientifica to the Royal Society. Lord Breneton read the dedication to the society at the meeting of 7 December 1664 and proposed Glanville for membership at that time,
Dedicated Plus ultra, 1668, to William Pierce, Bishop of Bath and Wells.
Dedicated "An Account of the Nature of a Spirit" (part of A Blow at Modern Sadducism) to Charles, Duke of Richmond and Lennox.
Dedicated A Prefatory Anser to Mr. Henry Stubbe, 1671, to Francis Godolphin.
Dedicated Philosophia pia, 1671, to Seth Ward, Bishop of Salisbury.
Appointed chaplain in ordinary by Charles II, 1672.
Through the influence of the Marquis of Worcestor, to whom he was related by marraige, he received the prebend in Worcester. Glanville had dedicated books (Essays on Several Important Subjects, 1676, and a set of four sermons, 1678) to both the Marquis and the Marchioness shortly before this.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
Informal Connections: Frequent correspondence with Richard Baxter, Boyle and Henry More from 1661. With Henry More he formed a virtual association for psychical research. Successfully traced the important missing manuscripts of Samuel Foster.
Royal Society, 1664-80. Secretary of a Somerset affiliate established in 1669 (and I think stillborn almost immediately).
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 7, 1287-8. Biographia Britannica, 1st ed. (London, 1747-66), 4, 2203-15.
  2. Jackson Cope, Joseph Glanvill, Anglican Apologist, (St. Louis, 1956). Anthony Wood, Athenae oxonienses (Fasti oxonienses is attached, with separate pagination, to the Athenae), 4 vols. (London, 1813-20), 3, 1244-53, Richard Popkin, "Joseph Glanvill: a Precursor of David Hume," Journal of the History of Ideas, 14 (1953), 292-303.
  3. _____, "The Development of the Philosophical Reputation of Joseph Glanville," Journal of the History of Ideas, 15 (1954), 305- 11.
  4. Thomas Birch, The History of the Royal Society, 4, 58-60.
  5. Stephen Medcalf, "Introduction" to Glanvill, The Vanity of Dogmatizing: The Three Versions, (Hove, Sussex, 1970), pp. xiii-xlvi.
  6. Sascha Talmor, Glanvill: The Uses and Abuses of Scepticism, (Oxford, 1987).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Moody E. Prior, "Joseph Glanvill, Witchcraft, and Seventeenth- Century Science," Modern Philology, 30 (1932), 167-93.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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1995 Al Van Helden
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