Barlow, William (d.1625) (DNB00)
BARLOW or BARLOWE, WILLIAM (d. 1625), archdeacon of Salisbury, son of William Barlow [see Barlow, William, d. 1568] and Agatha Wellesbourne, was born at St. David's when his father was bishop of that diocese, and was educated at Balliol College, Oxford. He graduated B.A. in 1564. About 1573 he entered into holy orders, and was made a prebendary of Winchester (1581) and rector of Easton. Most of his biographers assume that he spent the greater part of these years at sea, but on no better ground, it would appear, than the interest he showed in navigation, and the following ambiguous extract from the dedicatory epistle to his first book, 'The Navigator's Supply:' 'Touching experience of these matters'–compasses, &c.–'of myself I have none. For by natural constitution of body, even when I was young and strongest, I altogether abhorred the sea. Howbeit, that antipathy of my body against so barbarous an element could never hinder the sympathy of my mind and hearty affection towards so worthy an art as navigation is: tied to that element, if you respect the outward toil of the hand; but clearly freed therefrom, if you regard the apprehension of the mind.' This book was published in 1597 and dedicated to the Earl of Essex. In 1588 Barlow was transferred to a prebendal stall at Lichfield, which in the following year he resigned, on being appointed treasurer of that cathedral body. He afterwards became chaplain to Prince Henry, son of James I, and finally archdeacon of Salisbury (1615). His numerous ecclesiastical preferments are accounted for not only by his being a bishop's son, but by his four sisters having all married bishops. He says, in some introductory verses to 'The Navigator's Supply:'—'
This booke was written by a bishop's sonne,
And by affinitie to many bishops kinne.
Barlow's tastes were decidedly scientific, though, if his epitaph may be believed, he also 'applied himself for two and fifty years to the edifying of the body of Christ.' Science is indebted to Barlow for some marked improvements in the hanging of compasses at sea, for the discovery of the difference between iron and steel for magnetic purposes, and for the proper way of touching magnetic needles, and of piercing and cementing loadstones. Anthony à Wood endorses Barlow's statement that 'he had knowledge in the magnet twenty years before Dr. William Gilbert published his book of that subject,' and adds that he was 'accounted superior, or at least equal, to that doctor for a happy finder out of many rare and magnetical secrets.' This opinion was not, however, shared by a contemporary, Dr. Mark Ridley, who published a reply to Barlow's 'Magnetical Advertisements,' charging him with plagiarism, not only of Gilbert's famous work, 'De Magnete' (1600), but of his own book, 'Magnetical Bodies and Motions' (1613). This called forth an indignant rejoinder from Barlow in 'A Brief Discovery of the Idle Animadversions of Mark Ridley,' overflowing with personalities, in which he repudiates the accusation of Ridley, and retorts upon him that he had purloined a large portion of the material of his book from a manuscript of Barlow's treatise, surreptitiously obtained before its publication. He says: 'Except this Ridley had ploughed with my Heifor, hee had not knowne my Riddle — sic vos non vobis.' It is only fair to say that Barlow publishes a letter of Gilbert's to him which shows that they were in the habit of freely communicating their ideas to each other, and expressing Gilbert's high sense of Barlow's scientific attainments. Barlow has not, however, any claim to be set on the same level with Gilbert. Barlow died 25 May 1625, and was buried in the chancel of his church at Easton. His works are: 1. 'The Navigator's Supply,' London, 1597. 2. 'Magnetical Advertisements concerning the nature and property of the Loadstone,' London, 1618. 3. 'A Brief Discovery of the Idle Animadversions of Mark Ridley, M.D.,' London, 1618.
[Wood's Ath. Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 375; Biogr. Britannica; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Anglic., ed. Hardy.]