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Wright, Edward

1. Dates
Born: Garveston, Norfolk, Oct. 1561. He was baptized on 8 Oct.
Died: London, November, 1615
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 54
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
Henry Wright. We have only the information (from the records of Caius College) that the father was "mediocris fortunae, deceased."
No clear evidence on the family's financial situation. Although Wright attended Cambridge as a sizar, his brother who was two years older attended as a pensioner.
3. Nationality
Birth: Garveston, Norfolk, English
Career: English
Death: London, English
4. Education
Schooling: Cambridge, M.A.
Cambridge, Caius College, 1576-84; B.A., 1681; M.A., 1584.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
I accept this as an assumption from the silence of accounts about his religion. However, there is one report that at Cambridge he associated closely with the leaders of Puritanism there.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics, Navigation, Cartography
Subordinate: Magnetism
Famous for his contribution to mathematical navigation, especially Certaine Errors in Navigation, which set forth the Mercator projection. He also translated Stevin's Haven- Finding Art.
Wright also published some treatises on mathematics-- Description and Use of the Sphere, 1614, and especially A Description of the Admirable Tables of Logarithmes, a translation of Napier's Latin, published in 1616, just after Wright's death.
He helped Gilbert with De magnete and was even said (by Mark Ridley) to have written parts of it--presumably on the use of magnetic declination to determine longitude, a theme that Wright pursued in his own writings.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Schoolmastering, Engineering
Secondary: Academia
Fellow of Caius College, Cambridge, 1587-96.
Assistant to George, Earl of Cumberland, on an expedition to the Azores, 1589. Parsons and Morris say that he was called to this expedition by the Queen; the college records reveal that he was given a leave of absence by royal mandate. He remained in contact with Cumberland for the rest of his life and dedicated his major book on navigation to him.
Lecturer on navigation in London, supported by Sir Thomas Smith and Sir John Wolstenholme, rich merchants, 1600s. In 1614 the East India Company took over sponsorship of these lectures, with a salary of 50. I classify the lectures with private lessons under the heading of Schoolmaster.
Tutor of Mathematics to Prince Henry, 1608 or 9 until Prince Henry's death in 1612.
Surveyor for the New River Project, under Sir Hugh Myddleton.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat, Merchant, Government Official
See above. Note that Myddleton was a London entrepreneur.
Note also that Wright dedicated the second edition of his
book on navigation to Prince Henry.
He dedicated his translation of Stevin to Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Navigation, Cartography, Instruments, Hydraulics
Wright did a chart of the Azores on a Mercator projection. He also did a map of the fens, and he collaborated on Hakluyt's world map, again on a Mercator projection and incorporating late information from explorers, published in the Principal Navigations.
Wright was an important designer of instruments for navigation.
Wright was apparently the technical expert on the New River project, a waterway planned (and ultimately constructed) to bring water from Uxbridge to London.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Collaboration with Hakluyt.
Friendship with William Barlow, William Gilbert, and Thomas Blundeville. He assisted Gilbert and wrote a preface for De magnete.
Lifelong collaboration with Briggs.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 21, 1015-17. C. Hutton, A Philosophical and Mathematical Dictionary, 2, 619- 20 E.J.S. Parsons & W.F. Morris, "Edward Wright and His Work", Imago Mundi, 3 (1939), 61-71.
  2. E.G.R. Taylor, Mathematical practioners of Tudor and Stuart England, (Cambridge, 1954), pp. 181-2.
  3. J. Venn, Biographical History of Gonville and Caius College, (Cambridge, 1897), 1, 88-9.
  4. D.W. Waters, The Art of Navigation, (London, 1958), pp.219-29, 316-17.
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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