Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wing, Vincent

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478830Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62 — Wing, Vincent1900Agnes Mary Clerke

WING, VINCENT (1619–1668), astronomer, was the eldest son of Vincent Wing (1587-1660) of North Luffenham, Rutland, where he was born on 9 April 1619. The family was of Welsh origin. By his own exertions he acquired some knowledge of Latin, Greek, and mathematics, 'consuming himself in study.' In 1648 he became known as joint author, with William Leybourn [q. v.], of 'Urania Practica.' In the following year he published independently 'A Dreadful Prognostication,' containing predictions 'drawn from the effects of several celestial configurations.' His 'Harmonicon Coeleste' appeared in 1651; his chief and a most useful work, entitled 'Astronomia Britannica,' in 1652 (2nd ed, 1669). This was a complete system of astronomy on Copernican principles, and included numerous and diligently compiled sets of tables. A portrait of the author was prefixed. It was followed in 1656 by 'Astronomia Instaurata,' and in 1665 by 'Examen Astronomiae Carolinae,' exposing the alleged errors of Thomas Streete, who promptly retaliated with 'a castigation of the envy and ignorance of Vincent Wing.'

Wing issued ephemerides for twenty years (1652-1671), the 'exactest' then to be had, according to John Flamsteed, who maintained 'a fair correspondence' with him (Rigaud, Correspondence of Scientific Men, ii. 86). He also wrote for the Stationers' Company an almanac styled 'Olympia Domata,' the annua1 sale of which averaged 50,000 copies. The publication was continued by his descendants at irregular intervals until 1805.

Wing resided at North Luffenham, but occasionally 'sought the society of the learned' in London. He attended so zealously to his business as a land surveyor that, 'riding early and late, in all kinds of weather,' he contracted a consumption, of which he died on 20 Sept. 1668, aged 49. 'He was a person,' says his friend and biographer John Gadbury, 'of a very ready, ripe, and pungent wit; and had good judgment and memory thereunto annexed.' Although of an uncontentious disposition, he defended himself with spirit against the attacks of 'troublesome and ambitious' persons.' Sides were taken in these disputes; Flamsteed speaks of Wing's 'sectaries.' A convinced astrologer, he edited in 1668 George Atwel's 'Defence of the Divine Art,' drew the scheme of his own nativity published in Gadbury's 'Brief Relation,' and is said to have made a correct forecast of his death. His will was dated a fortnight before. He was buried at North Luffenham. The 'Olympia Domata' for 1670 was edited by his elder son, Vincent Wing; and the numbers for 1704 to 1727 by his nephew, John Wing of Pickworth, Rutland, coroner of that county, who published in 1693 'Heptarchia Mathematica,' and in 1699 an enlarged version of his uncle's 'Art of Surveying,' supplemented by 'Scientia Stellarum,' 'Calculation of the Planets' Places,' &c.

Tycho Wing (1696-1750), astrologer, a grandson of John Wing, taught the 'arts and sciences mathematical' at Pickworth in 1727, and edited the 'Olympia Domata' from 1739 onward. He was coroner of Rutland from 1727 to 1742. William Stukeley [q. v.] notes in his diary that he 'spent many agreeable hours at Stamford and Pickworth with Mr. Tycho Wing and Mr. Edmund Weaver, the great Lincolnshire astronomer.' Tycho visited Stukeley in London in March 1760, and died at Pickworth on 16 April ensuing. He married, on 18 April 1722, Eleanor, daughter of Conyers Peach, of Stoke Dry, Rutland, and had a family of five sons and one daughter. A portrait of him, painted in 1731 by J . Vanderbank, is in the hall of the Stationers' Company, London. One of his descendants, John Wing (1752-1812) of Thorney Abbey, Cambridgeshire, agent to the Duke of Bedford, became in 1788 the object of scurrilous attacks in connection with a proposed new tax on the North Level. Another Tycho Wing (1794-1851), also of Thorney Abbey, married Adelaide Basevi, niece of Lord Beaconsfield's mother.

[Gadbury's Brief Relation of the Life and Death of Mr. Vincent Wing, London, 1669; Green's Pedigree of the Family of Wing, 1486-1886; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. x. 374, 424, 8th ser. ii. 48; Button's Phil. and Math. Dictionary (1615); Bromley's Cat. of Engraved Portraits; Weidler's Hist. Astronomiae, p. 515; Lalande's Bibl. Astr.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Granger's Biogr. Hist, of England.]

A. M. C.