Hales, William (DNB00)

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HALES, WILLIAM (1747–1831), chronologist, born 8 April 1747, was one of the children of the Rev. Samuel Hales, D.D., for many years curate and preacher at the cathedral church of Cork. He was educated by his maternal uncle, the Rev. James Kingston, prebendary of Donoughmore, and in 1764 entered Trinity College, Dublin, where in 1768 he became fellow and B.A., and afterwards D.D. As tutor at the college he wore a white wig to obviate the objections of parents to his youthful appearance. His numerous pupils are said to have described his lectures as ‘pleasant,’ though he occasionally roused his pupils from bed by a dose of cold water. Hales also held the professorship of oriental languages in the university. His first published work was ‘Sonorum doctrina rationalis et experimentalis,’ London, 1778, 8vo, a vindication and confirmation from recent experiments of Newton's theory of sounds. In 1782 he published ‘De motibus Planetarum dissertatio,’ Dublin, 12mo, on the motions of the planets in eccentric orbits, according to the Newtonian theory. In 1784 he printed at his own expense ‘Analysis Aequationum,’ Dublin, 4to. His friend, Baron Maseres, inserted it in his ‘Scriptores Logarithmici,’ and printed 250 separate copies. La Grange sent Hales a complimentary letter from Berlin on the ‘Analysis.’ In 1788 Hales, who had already taken orders, resigned his professorship for the rectory of Killeshandra, co. Cavan, where he lived in retirement for the remainder of his life. From about 1812 he also held the chancellorship of the diocese of Emly. In 1798 he procured from the government some troops who tranquillised the country round Killeshandra. Hales was a good parish priest, ‘equally pleasing,’ says his biographer, ‘to the gentry and the lower orders.’ He was a kind-hearted, well-informed man, who told anecdotes well. He rose at six and spent the day in learned studies. In the evening he told his children stories from the ‘Arabian Nights,’ or played with them the game of ‘wild horses.’ Until 1819 he was constantly engaged in writing for publication. His best-known work, ‘A New Analysis of Chronology,’ occupied him twenty years. It was published by subscription in 1809–12, 3 vols., London, 4to. A second edition appeared in 1830, 4 vols., London, 8vo. Hales, noting the great discordance of previous chronologists, ‘laid it down as a rule to see with mine own eyes’ (Letter to Bishop Percy, 6 June 1796), and investigated the original sources. He gives the apparatus for chronological computation (measures of time, eclipses, eras, &c.). Hales's work deals with the chronology of the whole Bible, and gives a portion of the early history of the world. In 1801 Hales suffered from ‘a most malignant yellow fever,’ caught during a kind visit to a stranger beggar-woman. He recovered, but from about 1820 or earlier he suffered from melancholy, and his mind seems to have become disordered. He died on 30 Jan. 1831, in his eighty-fourth year. Hales married, about the middle of 1791, Mary, second daughter of Archdeacon Whitty. They had two sons and two daughters.

A list of Hales's works, twenty-two in number, is printed at the end of his last publication, the ‘Essay on the Origin and Purity of the Primitive Church of the British Isles,’ London, 1819, 8vo. His most important publications, besides those already enumerated, are: 1. ‘Analysis Fluxionum,’ in Maseres's ‘Scriptores Logarithmici,’ vol. v., 1791, &c., 4to (mainly a vindication of Newton. Hales relates the effect of electrical fluid on himself in a violent fever). 2. ‘The Inspector; or Select Literary Intelligence for the Vulgar, A.D. 1798, but correct A.D. 1801, the first year of the Nineteenth Century,’ 1799, 8vo (cp. Gent. Mag. 1799, 865–72). 3. ‘Irish Pursuits of Literature,’ 1799, 8vo (cp. ib. lxix. 1135 ff.). 4. ‘Methodism Inspected,’ 2 parts, Dublin, 1803–5, 8vo. 5. ‘Dissertations on the Principal Prophecies respecting … Christ,’ 2nd ed. London, 1808, 8vo. 6. ‘Letters on the … Tenets of the Romish Hierarchy,’ London, 1813, 8vo; also other writings on the church of Rome. 7. ‘Letters on the Sabellian Controversy,’ published in the ‘Anti-Jacobin Review,’ and reprinted as ‘Faith in the Holy Trinity,’ 2nd ed., London, 1818, 8vo.

[Memoir of Hales in the British Mag. and Monthly Register of Religious … Information, vol. i. 1832; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. vii. 786, viii. 317, 320, 678; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. W.