Allen, Thomas (1542-1632) (DNB00)
ALLEN, THOMAS (1542–1632), mathematician, was born at Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, 21 Dec. (St. Thomas's Day), 1542, being a descendant, through six generations, of Henry Allan, or Alan, lord of the manor of Bucknall, in the same county. He was admitted a scholar of Trinity College, Oxford, 4 June 1561, proceeded to his B.A. degree 13 May 1563; was chosen fellow of his college in 1565, and proceeded to his M.A. degree 21 April 1567. Being studious and averse from taking holy orders, he left his college and fellowship, and retired to Gloucester Hall about 1570. He became an eminent mathematician, philosopher, and antiquary, and was invited to visit the houses of noblemen of his own and foreign nations. Albertus Laski, palatinate of Sieradz in Poland, while on a visit to England in 1583, vainly invited Allen to go and live with him in that country.
He spent some time under the roof of Henry, earl of Northumberland, the great patron of mathematicians, probably at Sion House, where he became acquainted with those ‘Atlantes of the mathematical world,’ the famous Dr. John Dee, Thomas Harriot, Nathaniel Taporley, and Walter Warner. He was highly respected by, and corresponded with, other famous men of his time, as Sir Thomas Bodley, William Camden, Sir Robert Cotton, Selden, and Sir H. Spelman. Robert, earl of Leicester, chancellor of the university of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth's favourite, offered him a bishopric, but he preferred a life of retirement. He is described by Fuller as having ‘succeeded to the skill and scandal of Friar Bacon.’ His skill in mathematics and astrology, and the great number of instruments and glasses in his room, made the vulgar look upon him as a magician; his servitor would tell them ‘that he met the spirits coming up the stairs like bees.’ (For another quaint story see Aubrey, Letters from Eminent Persons, Lond. 1813, vol. ii. p. 202.) Allen was also a great collector of manuscripts, especially those of history, antiquities, astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy; and it is supposed that those on philosophy fell into the hands of Sir K. Digby, who made use of them in his own works. Allen died in Gloucester Hall, 30 Sept. 1632, and was buried on the following day in the chapel of Trinity College, upon which occasion two learned orations setting forth his merits were read by William Burton and George Bathurst before the vice-chancellor and heads of colleges; they were published the same year. His portrait is still preserved in the president's lodge of Trinity College, from which an engraving was executed by J. Bretherton circa 1770.
Copies of a few of Allen's manuscripts on astrology, &c., chiefly by later hands, are preserved in the Ashmolean Collections, Bodleian library, codices 192, 350, 388, and 1441.
The one by which he is best known, but which has never been printed, is No. 388, ‘Claudii Ptolomæi Peleusiensis de Astrorum Judiciis, aut ut vulgo vocant Quadripartitæ Constructionis, liber secundus [et liber tertius] cum Expositione Thomæ Alleyn Angli Oxoniensis.’ This manuscript would appear to be the original. He also made some learned notes upon Joh. Bale's ‘Scriptorum Illustrium Maioris Britanniæ Calalogus,’ Basileæ, 1557–9, fol., which were afterwards printed at the end of Leland's ‘Itinerary,’ vol. ix. Among the Cotton MSS. are to be found two original letters from Allen to Camden, the historian, dated respectively 1 March, 1619, and 19 Nov. 1621. The latter, which was printed in Camden's ‘Epistolæ,’ is not without literary interest; it doubtless procured for Allen's friend, Degory Wheare, the appointment, on 10 Oct. 1622, to the first Camden professorship of history at Oxford.[Burton and Bathurst, Orationes Binæ, Lond. 1632; Epicedum Magistri Thomæ Alleni, in Epistola Thomæ Mori, Rich. Jamesius, Oxoniæ, 1633, 4to; Fuller, Worthies of England, Lond. 1662, part ii. p. 46; Camden, Epistolæ, Lond. 1691, p. 315; Biographia Britannica, Lond. 1747, vol. i. p. 106; Wood, Athenæ Oxonienses, ed. Bliss, Lond. 1815, 4to, vol. ii. pp. 542–4; Biographical Dictionary, S. D. U. K., vol. ii. p. 201, 8vo, 1842; Cotton MS. (Jul. C. 5, fols. 295, 353).]