Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 40.djvu/71

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


multiplication and division can be performed by simple addition and subtraction, the extraction of the roots of numbers by division, and the raising of them to any power by multiplication. By these simple processes the most complicated problems in astronomy, navigation, and cognate sciences can be solved by an easy and certain method. The invention necessarily gave a great impulse to all the sciences which depend for their progress on exact computation. Napier's place among great originators in mathematics is fully acknowledged, and the improvements that he introduced constitute a new epoch in the history of the science. He was the earliest British writer to make a contribution of commanding value to the progress of mathematics.

The original portraits of Napier, known to the author of the 'Memoirs' in 1834, were six in number, all in oil, viz. : (1) three-quarter length, seated, dated 1616, set. 66, presented to Edinburgh University by Margaret, baroness Napier, who succeeded in 1686, engraved in 'Memoirs;' (2) three-quarter length, seated, with cowl, set. 66, belonging to Lord Napier, and never out of the family, engraved in 'De Arte Logistica;' (3) half-length, with cowl, in possession of Mr. Napier of Blackstone; (4) a similar one in possession of Aytoun of Inchdairnie; (5) half-length, without cowl, acquired by Lord Napier, the history of which is unknown; (6) half-length,with cowl , belonging to Professor Macvey Napier, and attributed to Jameson (Memoirs, pp. ix, x). There is also an engraving by Francisco Delaram dated 1620, a half-length, with ruff, using his 'bones,' of which an original impression is at Keir. From this a lithographic reproduction was executed for Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, which, however, appears never to have been published.

[Mark Napier's Memoirs, 1834; Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland; Exchequer Rolls of Scotland; Douglas's Peerage, 1813, vol. ii.; Crawford's Peerage, 1716; Mackenzie's Eminent Writers of the Scots Nation, vol. iii. 1722; Earl of Buchan's (D. S. Erskine) Life of Napier, 1787. In an appendix to the English translation of the Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Constructio (Edinburgh, 1889) appear full details of the editions of Napier's works, as well as an account of works by other authors, interesting from their connection with the works of Napier.]

W. R. M.-d.

NAPIER, Sir JOSEPH (1804–1882), lord chancellor of Ireland, born at Belfast on 26 Dec. 1804, was youngest son of William Napier, a merchant of Belfast, and was a descendant of the Napiers of Merchiston. His mother was Rosetta Macnaghten of Ballyreagh House, co. Antrim. His only sister Rosetta married James Whiteside [q. v.], chief justice of Ireland. He was educated in the Belfast Academical Institution under James Sheridan Knowles [q. v.], and in November 1820 was entered at Trinity College, Dublin, under the tutorship of Dr. Singer, afterwards bishop of Meath. At the end of his first year he brought himself into notice by publishing a paper on the binomial theorem. Obtaining honours in classics and science, he graduated B.A. in 1825, and M.A. in 1828. After taking his bachelor's degree he resided within the walls of Trinity College, occupied himself in writing for periodicals, and took a conspicuous part in the establishment of an oratorical society outside the walls of the college, somewhat resembling the Union at Oxford. He was also successful in reviving the old College Historical Society, and his connection with it lasted fifty-eight years. From 1854 till his death he was president, and he instituted an annual prize—designated the ‘Napier Prose Composition Prize’—for the best essay on a subject to be selected by himself.

From the beginning of his career Napier adopted tory principles, while his religious views inclined to those of the protestant evangelical party. Through 1828 he actively opposed the movement for Roman catholic emancipation. Marrying in the same year, he determined to go to the English bar. Having entered himself at Gray's Inn, he became a pupil at the law school of the London University, and attended the lectures of Mr. Amos. After a few months he passed into the chambers of Mr. (afterwards Justice) Patteson, then the leading practitioner in common law, and in 1830, upon the promotion of Patteson to the bench, successfully practised for a term as a pleader in London.

Called to the Irish bar in the Easter term of 1831, he attached himself to the north-eastern circuit, and at once commanded an extensive practice in Dublin; he was the only lawyer there who had pupils. He published in 1831 a ‘Manual of Precedents of Forms and Declarations on Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes,’ and a ‘Treatise on the Practice of the Civil Bill Courts and Courts of Appeal,’ and edited the law reports known as ‘Albeck and Napier's Reports of Cases argued in the King's Bench’ in 1832–4. For many years this volume of reports was the only Irish authority ever referred to in English courts of justice. At this period, too, Napier delivered lectures on the common law, which attracted much attention both in Dublin and London, and was busy establishing a law institute. At the Lent assizes of 1843, held in Monaghan, he was engaged for