A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Barrow, Isaac

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Barrow, Isaac (1630-1677). -- Divine, scholar, and mathematician, s. of a linen-draper in London, was ed. at Charterhouse, Felsted, Peterhouse, and Trinity Coll., Cambridge, where his uncle and namesake, afterwards Bishop of St. Asaph, was a Fellow. As a boy he was turbulent and pugnacious, but soon took to hard study, distinguishing himself in classics and mathematics. Intending originally to enter the Church, he was led to think of the medical profession, and engaged in scientific studies, but soon reverted to his first views. In 1655 he became candidate for the Greek Professorship at Cambridge, but was unsuccessful, and travelled for four years on the Continent as far as Turkey. On his return he took orders, and, in 1660, obtained the Greek Chair at Cambridge, and in 1662 the Gresham Professorship of Geometry, which he resigned on being appointed first Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in the same university. During his tenure of this chair he pub. two mathematical works of great learning and elegance, the first on Geometry and the second on Optics. In 1669 he resigned in favour of his pupil, Isaac Newton, who was long considered his only superior among English mathematicians. About this time also he composed his Expositions of the Creed, The Lord's Prayer, Decalogue, and Sacraments. He was made a D.D. by royal mandate in 1670, and two years later Master of Trinity Coll., where he founded the library. Besides the works above mentioned, he wrote other important treatises on mathematics, but in literature his place is chiefly supported by his sermons, which are masterpieces of argumentative eloquence, while his treatise on the Pope's Supremacy is regarded as one of the most perfect specimens of controversy in existence. B.'s character as a man was in all respects worthy of his great talents, though he had a strong vein of eccentricity. He d. unmarried in London at the early age of 47. B.'s theological works were edited by Napier, with memoir by Whewell (9 vols., 1839).