Jonas Moore

Sir Jonas Moore was born at Whitelee, in Lancashire, towards the bishopric of Durham. He was inclined to mathematics when a boy, which some kind friends of his (whom he mentions in the preface of his first edition of his Arithmetic, and Edmund WyId esquire) and afterwards Mr Oughtred, more fully informed him; and then he taught gentlemen in London, which was his livelihood.

He was a clerk under Dr Burghill, Chancellor of Durham. Parson Milbourne, in the bishopric, put him upon the mathematics, and instructed him in it. Then he came to the Middle Temple, London, where he published his Arithmetic, and taught it in Stanhope Street. After this, he got in with the Lord Gorges, Earl of Bedford, and Sir Thornas Chichele, for, the surveying of the Fens -- from Captain Sherbourne.

Mr William Gascoigne (of the north, I think Yorkshire), a person of good estate, a most learned gentleman, who was killed in the Civil Wars in the king's cause, a great mathematician, and bred by the Jesuits at Rome, gave him good information in mathematical knowledge.

When the great level of the Fens was to be surveyed, Mr WyId aforesaid who was his scholar and a member of parliament was very
instrumental in helping him to the employment of surveying it, which was his rise, which I have heard him acknowledge with much gratitude before several persons of quality, since he became a knight, and which evidenced an excellent good nature in him.

Memorandum: when he surveyed the fens, he observed the line that the sea made on the beach, which is not a straight line (enquire what line?), by which means he got great credit in keeping out the sea in Norfolk: so he made his banks against the sea of the same line that the sea makes on the beach; and no other could do it, but that the sea would still break in upon it.
Memorandum: he made a model of a citadel for Oliver Cromwell, to bridle the City of London, which Mr WyId has; and this citadel was to have been the cross building of St Paul's church.

Upon the restoration of his majesty he was made Master Surveyor of his majesty's ordnance and armories. In 1663 he received the honour of knighthood. He was a good mathematician, and a good fellow.

He died at Godalming, coming from Portsmouth to London, and was buried at the Tower Chapel with a sixty-gun salute (equal to the number of his years). He was tall and very fat, thin skin, fair, clear grey eye.

He always intended to have left his library of mathematical books to the Royal Society, of which he was a member; but he happened to die without making a will, whereby the Royal Society have a great loss.

His only son, Jonas, had the honour of knighthood conferred upon him. 9 August 1680, at Windsor; 'his majesty being pleased to give him this mark of his favour as well in consideration of his own abilities, as of the faithful service of his father deceased' (London Gazette, no. 1537) but young Sir Jonas, when he is old, will never be old Sir-Jonas, for all the Gazette's eulogy.

Memorandum: speak to Sir Christopher Wren, to get the wooden sphere that was made for Prince Henry by Mr Wright, out of young Sir Jonas Moore's hands, into the king's again.

I remember Sir Jonas told us that a Jesuit (I think 'twas Grenbergerus, of the Roman College) found out a way of flying, and that he made a youth perform it. Mr Gascoigne taught an Irish boy the way, and he flew over a river in Lancashire (or thereabouts), but when he was up in the air, the people gave a shout, whereat the boy being frightened, he fell down on the other side of the river, and broke his legs, and when he came to himself, he said that he thought the people had seen some strange apparition, which fancy amazed him. This was in 1635, and he spoke [about] it in the Royal Society, upon the account of the flying at Paris two years since. See the Transactions.

I remember I have heard Sir Jonas say that when he began mathematics, he wonderfully profited by reading Billingsley's Euclid, and that 'twas his excellent, clear, and plain exposition of the fourth proposition of the first book of the Elements, did first open and clear his understanding: which N.B.


Sir Jonas Moore: Sciatica: he cured it by boiling his buttock. The Duke of York said that 'Mathematicians and physicians had no religion': which being told to Sir Jonas Moore, he presented his duty to the Duke of York and 'wished with all his heart that his highness were a mathematician too': this was since he was supposed to be a Roman Catholic.



From John Aubrey's Brief Lives. (Edited by R Barber, Boydell Press, 1982)