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Lhwyd [Llhwyd, Lhuyd, Llwyd, Lloyd, Floyd, Luidius], Edward

1. Dates
Born: probably Glan Ffraid, Cardiganshire, Wales, 1660
Died: Oxford, 30 June 1709
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 49
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
The natural son of Edward Llwyd, on whom there is no information.
Ellis describes the father as dissolute and impractical, and thus poor. It is clear that Lhwyd had very limited means while he was a student at Oxford, to the extent that he took rather miserable employment before completing a degree. I conclude that he was reared in financially poor circumstances.
3. Nationality
Birth: English (Welsh)
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Oxford
Oxford University, Jesus College, 1682-7; no bachelor's degree.
Created M.A. by Convocation, 1701 (don't treat this as an earned advanced degree).
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
By assumption.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Natural History, Paleontology, Botany
Subordinate: Geology
Lhwyd collected plants around the hill mass of Snowdon in Wales and established the existence of a distinct alpine flora and fauna there. Ray published Lhwyd's list of plants around Snowdon in his Synopsis, 1690.
He assisted Lister in cataloguing mollusks and fossils in Oxfordshire. This topic became his primary scientific interest and resulted ultimately in Lithophylacii botannici ichnographia, 1699.
Fossils involved him in geology. Ichnographia included six letters on geological subjects. The fossil content of stones led him to question the deluge account.
Lhwyd undertook a general natural history of all the celtic parts of Britain (including also Ireland and Brittany). Achaeologia britannica, 1707, was to have been the first volume of this work, but Lhwyd did not live to publish the rest. That volume is more linguistic than scientific; it inaugurated the study of comparative celtic philology.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia
Secondary: Publishing, Patronage
Assistant to Robert Plot, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, 1683-91.
Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, 1691-1709. (I list the Ashmolean positions as Academic.) Apparently the keepership carried no salary; Lhwyd derived his income from fees paid by visitors. Ellis says that his income from the museum never exceeded 50 per annum.
Lhwyd undertook to collect material on Wales for a new edition of Camden's Britannia, published in 1695. For this he received a modest single payment from the publisher. (I list this as Publishing.)
He was partially supported by subscribers to his natural history of the celtic parts of Britain, 1696-1700. In the first of these years he received more than 100; by 1700 the amount had fallen off to about 11. (I list this as Patronage.)
Elected Esquire Beadle of Divinity at Oxford, 1709. This carried a salary of 100, but Lhwyd died after only a few months.
8. Patronage
Types: Academic, Scientist, Gentry
Robert Plot, Chemical professor and the first keeper of the Asnmolean Museum, offered him an assistantship.
The cost of publication of Lithophylacii britannici ichnographia, which Oxford University declined to finance, was subscribed by patrons and friends, including Newton, Hans Sloane, and Martin Lister. This was one of the early subscription publications.
Lhwyd undertook his contributions to Camden's Britannia explicitly to encourage Welsh gentry to support a bigger project, and immediately after Britannia appeared he did begin to garner support. In 1695 he published a proposal (see Ellis) solliciting support for a pension to finance his projected Archaeologia britannica, and he received enough to proceed, though not everything promised actually came in. Lhwyd himself called his supporters gentry.
He dedicated the volume of Archaeologia that did appear to Sir Thomas Mansell.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
I toyed with listing Cartography because Lhwyd did assemble bearings and distances of Welsh places, the raw materials of a map. However, in his search for assistants, capacity to survey was important (presumably because Lhwyd himself lacked the skill), and the plans (or maps) he drew of burial sites that he visited are fairly crude.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
Informal Connections: Friendship with Hans Sloane, Martin Lister, John Ray, John Morton, John Aubrey, Thomas Molyneux, Tancred Robinson, and most of the naturalists of his day in Britain. Intimate frienship with Thomas Hearne. His correspondence with his friends is published in Gunther.
Assisted Martin Lister with lists of Oxfordshire species of mollusks and fossils.
Quarrelled with Dr. Woodword about the origin of marine fossils.
Royal Society, 1708.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 11, 1096-8. Biographia Britannica, 1st ed. (London, 1747-66), 5, 2929-31.
  2. Richard Ellis, "Some Incidents in the Life of Edward Lhuyd," in R.T. Gunther, ed., Life and Letters of Edward Lhwyd (Early Science in Oxford, 14), (Oxford, 1945), pp. 1-51. This is the best account I have found.
  3. J.L. Campbell & D. Thomson, Edward Lhuyd in the Scottish Highlands, 1694-1700, (Oxford, 1963).
  4. M.E. Jahn, "Notes on Edward Lhwyd," Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History, 4 (1966), 244-8; 6 (1971), 61-2, 7 (1972), 86-97.
  5. Frank V. Emery, Edward Lhuyd, F.R.S. 1660-1709, (Cardiff, 1971).
  6. Chalmers's General Biographical Dictionary, 1815 ed. 20, 232-6.
  7. Gwyn Walter and Frank Emery, "Edward Lhwyd, Edmund Gibson, and the Printing of Camden's Britannia, 1695," The Library 32 (1977), 109-37.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Brynley F. Roberts, "In Search of Edward Lhuyd," Archives of Natural History, 16 (1989), 49-57.
  2. Nicholas Owen, British Remains, (London, 1777).
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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