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White [Blacklo, Blacklow, Blackloe, Vitus, Albius, Anglus,

1. Dates
Born: Runwell, Essex, 1593
Died: London, 6 July 1676
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 83
2. Father
Occupation: Gentry
Robert White appears to have been a member of the gentry, although Bradley calls him middle class.
Clearly prosperous.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: Belgian Area, [Pt,] Italian, French, English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Valladolid, Seville, Louvain; Douai, D.D.
The English College at St.Omer (a Jesuit college, or secondary school), before 1609.
St. Albans College at Valladolid, 1609-12.
The English College at Seville, 1612-14.
I assume a B.A. or its equivalent somewhere along here.
The English College at Louvain and at Douai, 1614-17. B.D., 1617 (listed as D.D.)
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
Ordained in 1617 under the name Blacklo (or Blackloe or Blacklow), White was a major figure in English Catholicism. (Note that he also wrote under all the other names listed above.) The English equivalent of a Jansenist and vigorous anti-Jesuit, White was ultimately not acceptable to Rome; the Holy Office condemned his views in 1655, 1657, and 1661. However, White, while never giving in, remained a Catholic.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Natural Philosophy
White was a dedicated Aristotelian, the author of De mundo, 1642, and Institutionum peripateticarum . . . pars theorica, 1646. Scientific thought was always subordinate for him to his effort to render theology scientifically verifiable; he was the author of numerous theological works. I cannot call him a Scholastic Philosopher, however; he was much too involved with contemporary thought. White wrote quite a few theological and devotional books.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Church Life
Secondary: Patronage
Teacher of philosophy, science and theology at Douai, 1617-24. He returned to England as a priest briefly in 1623, but was soon back at Douai.
Representive of the secular clergy of England at Rome, 1626-30.
President and professor of Theology at English College at Lisbon, 1630-3.
He returned to England as a priest once more in 1633 and was there until about 1642, when he went to Paris, where he was until about 1650.
Vice-president of the English College at Douai and professor, 1650-62.
After 1662, he lived in London.
In most of this White's means of support are left in the dark. I do not know how he was supported as a priest in England, but I suspect it was by patronage. However, the sources I have found do not take up this issue. It is known that he lived for a time in the house of Kenelm Digby (in Paris, I believe). I would be willing to bet that investigation would reveal other relations of this sort with the Catholic gentry and nobility.
8. Patronage
Types: Gentry, Physician
According to my general principle, someone may have stood behind those appointments. However, the refugee English Catholic institutions on the continent seem different from ordinary universities; I tend to think that their problem may have been filling their faculties. Although I am pretty well convinced that much of the time White lived on patronage, his relation with Digby is the one fully clear instance of it that I have found.
He lived for a time in the house of Kenelm Digby. The full title of White's major work is Institutionum peripateticarum ad mentem summi clarissimique philosophi Kenelmi Equitis Digbaei. Two other works, Quaestio theologica and Institutiones theologicae also asserted in their full titles that they were based on the principles of Digby's philosophy, and he dedicated a book (The grounds of Obedience and Government, 1655) to Digby. It would be extraordinary if Digby ignored such accolades.
It appears from the material I have seen that White did not dedicate quite a few of his books. However, he did dedicate one to his cousin Andrew White and two others to his two sisters. (I tend to find here evidence that his family was helping to support him.) He also dedicated a book to Pope Alexander VII about the time of his first condemnation by the Holy Office. White was always a thorn in the Papacy's side; who knows what the dedication meant? He also dedicated books to Dr. Edward Daniel (who was he?), Dr. Ralph Bathurst, and Charles, Earl of Scarborough. (I got this last item from Gillow. It is a mystery to me. The book in question, Euclides metaphysics, was published in 1658; the first Earl of Scarborough was created in 1680, and he was not named Charles. I do not know how to explain this, but I am not listing the item as patronage.) I cannot ignore these dedications, but it is difficult to be very sure how they were received from an outsider like White.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Informal Connections: The relationship with Digby; friendship (inevitably stormy) with Hobbes.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 21, 79-81. Biographia Britannica, 2nd ed. (London, 1778-93), 5, 197-9fn (a footnote to the article on Digby).
  2. Robert I. Bradley, "Blacklo and the Counter-reformation: An Enquiry into the Strange Death of Catholic England" in Charles Howard Carter, ed., From the Renaissance to the Counter Reformation, (New York, 1965), pp. 348-70.
  3. Joseph Gillow, A Literary and Biographical History, or, Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time, (London, 1885-1902), 5, 578-81.
  4. This contains a list of White's numerous publications.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Robert I. Bradley, Blacklo: An Essay in Counter-Reformation, unpublished Ph.D diss., Columbia Univ. 1963.
  2. B.C. Southgate, The Life and Work of Thomas White (1593-1670), unpublished Ph.D. diss., London University, 1979.
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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