Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Greatorex, Ralph

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GREATOREX, RALPH (d. 1712?), mathematical instrument maker, is mentioned in Aubrey's 'Lives' (ii. 473) as a great friend of Oughtred the mathematician. He is also briefly referred to in Aubrey's 'Natural History of Wilts' (ed. Britton, p. 41), and in the 'Macclesfield Correspondence' (i. 82). Evelyn met Greatorex on 8 May 1656 (Diary, i. 314), and saw his 'excellent invention to quench fire.' His name appears in Pepys's 'Diary.' On 11 Oct. 1660, when several engines were shown at work in St. James's Park, 'above all the rest,' says Pepys, 'I liked that which Mr. Greatorex brought, which do carry up the water with a great deal of ease.' On 24Oct.Pepys bought of Greatorex a drawing-pen, 'and he did show me the manner of the lamp-glasses which carry the light a great way, good to read in bed by, and I intend to have one of them. And we looked at his wooden jack in his chimney, that goes with the smoake, which indeed is very pretty.' On 9 June and 20 Sept, 1662 and 23 March 1663 ('this day Greatorex brought me a very pretty weather-glasse for heat and cold') Pepys met the inventor; the last entry, 23 May 1663, refers to his varnish, 'which appears every whit as good upon a stick which he hath done, as the Indian.' Among the wills of the commissary court of London is that of one Ralph Greatorex, gentleman, of the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, signed 1710, and proved 1713. It supplies, however, no direct evidence of the testator's identity with the mathematical instrument maker. Twenty pounds is left to Elizabeth Caron, widow, of the same parish (probably his landlady), and the residue to his 'loving friend, Sarah Fenton,' parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields.

[Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. viii. 284.]

L. M. M.