Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Field, John (1525?-1587)
FIELD or FEILD, JOHN (1520–1587), ‘proto-Copernican’ of England, son of Richard Field (d. 1542), was born, as is supposed, at Ardsley, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, between 1520 and 1530. He received a liberal education, and Mr. Joseph Hunter, his descendant, conjectures that part of it was gained under the patronage of Alured Comyn, prior of St. Oswald's, from which house the cell of Woodkirk, near Ardsley, depended. Anthony à Wood believes that he studied at Oxford.
He published: 1. ‘Ephemeris anni 1557 currentis juxta Copernici et Reinholdi canones … per J. Feild … ad Meridianum Londinensem … supputata. Adjecta est Epistola J. Dee, qua vulgares istos Ephemeridum fictores reprehendit,’ London, 1556, 4to. 2. ‘Ephemerides trium annorum, an. 1558, 59 et 60 … ex Erasmi Reinoldi tabulis accuratissimè ad Meridianum Civitatis Londinensis supputatæ,’ London, 1558, 4to. To the latter work the following are added: ‘Canon Ascensionum Obliquarum cujusvis stellæ non excedentis 8 gradus Latitudinis confectus,’ and ‘Tabula Stellarum Fixarum insigniorum,’ &c. These works were the first in England in which the principles of the Copernican philosophy were recognised and asserted.
He lived in London at the date of his first ‘Ephemeris,’ and appears, from a remark in a manuscript in the Lambeth Library, to have been a public instructor in science. On 4 Sept. 1558 he received a confirmation of arms and the grant of a crest allusive to his attainments in astronomical science, viz. the device of a red arm issuing from the clouds and presenting a golden orrery.
He married, about 1560, Jane (d. 1609), daughter of John Amyas, a Kentish gentleman, and some time between that date and 1577, settled down at Ardsley, where he continued till his death, his position being that of a gentleman held in esteem among the better class of his neighbours. In the Yorkshire visitation of 1585 he recorded his arms and crest and the names of his wife and nine children. In his will, dated 28 Dec. 1586, he describes himself as a ‘fermer sometyme student in the mathymathicke sciences.’ He died soon after the date of this will, the administration of his estate being granted to his widow on 3 May 1587. His library passed into the hands of William Coley of York, who afterwards returned it to the family.[Joseph Hunter's Gens Sylvestrina, 1846, pp. 77–80; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 300; Glover's Visitation of Yorkshire, ed. Foster, 1875, p. 317; Yorkshire Archæological Journal, xiv.; Foster's York. Pedigrees, West Riding, 1874.]