Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hoskins, John (1634-1705)

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HOSKINS or HOSKYNS, Sir JOHN (1634–1705), president of the Royal Society, eldest son of Sir Bennet Hoskyns, first baronet, of Harewood and Morehampton Park, Herefordshire, and grandson of Serjeant John Hoskins [q. v.], was born in Herefordshire on 23 July 1634 (monumental inscription). He was educated in the rudiments of Latin by his mother, Anne, daughter of Sir John Bingley of Temple Combe, Somerset, and was afterwards sent to Westminster School under Dr. Busby (Sloane MS.) He was subsequently called to the bar at the Middle Temple, and although he is said not to have practised, acquired some reputation as a lawyer, and was made a master in chancery. Roger North, whose brother, Lord-keeper Guilford, was long intimate with Hoskins, eulogises his integrity in performing the duties of his office. In 1680 he succeeded his father in the baronetcy (having been knighted previously), and five years afterwards was chosen M.P. for Herefordshire, the county in which his estates lay, but took no active part in politics. The bent of his mind was towards philosophical pursuits, and in recognition of his eminence therein he was elected president of the Royal Society in 1682, in succession to his friend Sir Christopher Wren. Evelyn, who had been solicited to stand for the post of president, retired in favour of Sir John, whom he describes as ‘a most learned virtuoso as well as lawyer.’ Hoskins resigned the chair in the following year, but from 1685 to 1687 discharged the duties of secretary. Lord-keeper Guilford was wont to say that he never was more happy than when enjoying with Hoskins an ‘ample Feast of Discourse.’ Aubrey was another of Hoskins's friends (cf. Lives, vol. ii. passim). He died on 12 Sept. 1705, and was buried at Harewood, Herefordshire. He married Jane, daughter of Sir Gabriel Low, and his two sons, Bennet and Hungerford (d. 1766), were third and fourth baronets successively. According to North, Hoskins was ‘one of the most hard-favoured men of his time,’ and very careless in his dress. His portrait was engraved by R. White.

Sloane MS. 4222; Weld's Hist. of Royal Society, p. 281; Evelyn's Diary; North's Lives, ed. Jessopp, i. 372–3; Granger's Biog. Dict. iv. 314; Burke's Baronetage.

C. J. R.