Gellibrand, Henry (DNB00)

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GELLIBRAND, HENRY (1597–1636), mathematician, born in the parish of St. Botolph, Aldersgate, London, 17 Nov. 1597, was the eldest son of Henry Gellibrand, M.A., fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, and of St. Paul's Cray, Kent, who died 15 Aug. 1615. He became a commoner of Trinity College, Oxford, in 1615, and took the two degrees in arts, B.A. 25 Nov. 1619, M.A. 26 May 1623. He took holy orders, and served for a time a curacy at Chiddingstone, Kent, but was led to devote himself entirely to mathematics by one of Sir Henry Savile's lectures. He settled at Oxford, and became a friend of Henry Briggs [q. v.], on whose recommendation he was chosen professor of astronomy at Gresham College, 2 Jan. 1626–7. Briggs dying in 1630 he left his unfinished ‘Trigonometria Britannica’ to Gellibrand. Gellibrand held puritan meetings in his rooms, and encouraged his servant, William Beale, to publish an almanack for 1631, in which the popish saints were superseded by those in Foxe's ‘Book of Martyrs.’ Laud, then bishop of London, cited them both into the high commission court. They were acquitted on the ground that similar almanacks had been printed before, Laud alone dissenting, and this prosecution formed afterwards one of the articles exhibited against him at his own trial (Prynne, Canterburies Doome, 1646, p. 184). In 1632 Gellibrand completed Briggs's manuscript, and published it in 1633 as ‘Trigonometria Britannica: sive de doctrina Triangulorum libri duo. Quorum prior … ab … H. Briggio … posterior verò … ab H. Gellibrand … constructus,’ 2 pts. fol., Gouda, 1633. According to Ward, an English translation of Gellibrand's book was published in 1658 by John Newton as the second part of a folio with the same title. During 1633 he also contributed ‘An Appendix concerning Longitude’ to ‘The strange and dangerous Voyage of Captaine Thomas James,’ 4to, 1633, which has been frequently reprinted. Gellibrand died of fever 16 Feb. 1636, and was buried in the church of St. Peter the Poor, Broad Street, London. Works not mentioned above are: 1. ‘A Discourse Mathematical of the Variation of the Magneticall Needle together with its admirable diminution lately discovered,’ 4to, London, 1635. 2. ‘An Institution Trigonometricall wherein … is exhibited the doctrine of the dimension of plain and spherical triangles … by tables … of sines, tangents, secants, and logarithms … Second edition … enlarged’ (by William Leybourn), 8vo, London, 1652. The first edition had appeared in 1638. 3. ‘An Epitome of Navigation … with tables …’ An edition by E. Speidell appeared in 1698, and one by J. Atkinson, 1706. He wrote the preface to ‘Sciographia, or the Art of Shadowes,’ 8vo, London, 1635, composed by J[ohn] W[ells] of Brembridge in Hampshire. At the end of ‘Trigonometria Britannica’ he stated that he had by him ‘integram eclipsium doctrinam,’ for the printer could not wait. Another manuscript, ‘Astronomia lunaris,’ written in 1635, was once in the possession of Sir Hans Sloane. A third manuscript, a ‘Treatise of Building of Ships,’ is mentioned by Wood as belonging to Edward, lord Conway. His Latin oration, ‘in laudem Gassendi astronomiæ,’ delivered in Christ Church Hall, Oxford, is in the British Museum, Addit. MS. 6193, f. 96. Gellibrand was a plodding industrious mathematician, without a spark of genius.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 622–3; Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), i. 386, 411; Ward's Lives of the Gresham Professors, pp. 81–5, 336; Chalmers's Biog. Dict. xvi. 390–2; Biographia Britannica; Martin's Biographia Philosophica.]

G. G.