Herapath, John (DNB00)

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HERAPATH, JOHN (1790–1868), mathematician and journalist, born at Bristol on 30 May 1790, was the son of a maltster. After a scanty education he was placed in his father's business, but he managed to find time for study, his favourite subjects being mathematics and physics. In 1815 he married, and soon afterwards gave up business to open a mathematical academy at Knowle Hill, Bristol. He occasionally contributed to the ‘Annals of Philosophy.’ In 1818 he wrote on the ‘Law of Continuity’ (xi. 209), and in 1819 communicated ‘New Demonstrations of the Binomial Theorem’ (xiii. 364). In 1820, having previously announced through a friend that he had determined the principle of gravitation (Phil. Mag. August 1819, p. 310), he offered to the Royal Society a paper entitled ‘A Mathematical Inquiry into the Causes, Laws, and Principal Phenomena of Heat, Gases, Gravitations, &c.’ It was refused. He thereupon published in the ‘Annals of Philosophy’ (new ser. i. 273, 340, 401) a letter to Davies Gilbert [q. v.], treasurer of the Royal Society, on the physical constitution of the universe. This formed a preface to the rejected paper, which was published in four subsequent numbers of the ‘Annals.’ A fierce controversy with the Royal Society followed. At the close of 1820 he settled as a mathematical tutor at Cranford, Middlesex. In 1821 he wrote on the ‘Theory of Evaporation’ in the ‘Annals of Philosophy’ for April and May. In 1822 his papers in that journal relate principally to his grievances against the Royal Society. His ‘Tables of Temperature and a Mathematical Development of the Causes and Laws of the Phenomena which have been adduced in support of the hypothesis of Calorific Capacity and Latent Heat’ (new ser. iii. 16) was controverted by Tredgold. He also wrote ‘Remarks on Dr. Thomson's Paper on the Influence of Humidity in modifying the Specific Gravity of Gases’ (new ser. iii. 419). He became acquainted with Brougham, who invited him to correct his mathematical works, induced him to write for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge a treatise on the ‘Differential and Integral Calculus,’ and held out to him hopes of the appointment of professor of mathematics in the university of London. Herapath eventually declined to deliver the treatise, and a quarrel ensued. In 1832 he gave up teaching, and removed to Kensington.

On the formation of the Eastern Counties Railway Company Herapath became connected with the railway interest, and in 1836 succeeded as part proprietor and manager of the ‘Railway Magazine.’ Under his editorship a new series was commenced called ‘The Railway Magazine and Annals of Science,’ which continued to appear monthly from March 1836 to 1839, forming six octavo volumes. Herapath ultimately acquired the sole proprietorship. It is now published in quarto as a weekly paper entitled ‘Herapath's Railway and Commercial Journal.’ After resigning the active management of his paper to his son, Edwin John, Herapath once more devoted himself to mathematics, and published two volumes of ‘Mathematical Physics; or the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy: with a Development of the Causes of Heat, Gaseous Elasticity, Gravitation,’ &c., 8vo, London, 1847. He contemplated issuing a third volume, but made little progress with it. He died on 24 Feb. 1868 at Catford Bridge, Lewisham, and was buried in Norwood cemetery. He was a first cousin of William Herapath [q. v.]

[Herapath's Railway Journal, 4to ser. xxx. 234, 275–8, 309, 334; Gent. Mag. 4th ser. v. 544–5.]

G. G.