1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Simpson, Thomas

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22325341911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 25 — Simpson, Thomas

SIMPSON, THOMAS (1710–1761), English mathematician, was born at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire on the 20th of August 1710. His father was a stuff weaver, and, intending to bring his son up to his own business, took little care of the boy’s education. Young Simpson was so eager for knowledge that he neglected his weaving, and in consequence of a quarrel was forced to leave his father’s house. He settled for a short time at Nuneaton at the house of a Mrs Swinfield, whom he afterwards married, where he met a pedlar who practised fortune-telling. Simpson was induced to cast nativities himself, and soon became the oracle of the neighbourhood; but he became convinced of the imposture of astrology, and he abandoned this calling. After a residence of two or three years at Derby, where he worked as a weaver during the day and taught pupils in the evenings, he went to London. The number of his pupils increased; his abilities became more widely known; and he was enabled to publish by subscription his Treatise of Fluxions in 1737. This treatise abounded with errors of the press, and contained several obscurities and defects incidental to the author’s want of experience and the disadvantages under which he laboured. His next publications were A Treatise on the Nature and Laws of Chance (1740); Essays on Several Curious and Useful Subjects in Speculative and Mixed Mathematicks (1740); The Doctrine of Annuities and Reversions deduced from General and Evident Principles (1742); and Mathematical Dissertations on a Variety of Physical and Analytical Subjects (1743). Soon after the publication of his Essays he was chosen a member of the Royal Academy at Stockholm; in 1743 he was appointed professor of mathematics in the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich; and in 1745 he was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 1745 he published A Treatise of Algebra, with an appendix containing the construction of geometrical problems, and in 1747 the Elements of Plane Geometry. The latter book, unlike many others with the same title, is not an edition of Euclid's Elements, but an independent treatise, and the solutions of problems contained in it (and in the appendix to the Algebra as well) are in general exceedingly ingenious. In his Trigonometry, Plane and Spherical, with the Construction and Application of Logarithms, which appeared in 1748, there is a tolerably uniform use of contractions for the words sine, tangent, &c., prefixed to the symbol of the angle. The Doctrine and Application of Fluxions (1750) was more comprehensive than his earlier work on the same subject and was so different that he wished it to be considered as a new book and not as a second edition of the former. In 1752 appeared Select Exercises for Young Proficients in the Mathematicks, and in 1757 his Miscellaneous Tracts on Some Curious and Very Interesting Subjects in Mechanics, Physical Astronomy and Speculative Mathematics, the last and perhaps the greatest of all his works. From the year 1735 he had been a frequent contributor to the Ladies' Diary, an annual publication partly devoted to the solution of mathematical problems, and from 1754 till 1760 inclusive he was the editor of it. He died at Market Bosworth on the 14th of May 1761.

See Charles Hutton, Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary (1815).