Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Partridge, Seth

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PARTRIDGE, SETH (1603–1686), mathematical writer, is probably identical with the Seth Partridge who died on 25 Feb. 1685–1686, aged 82, and was buried in the church at Hemel-Hempstead, Hertfordshire, where there is an inscription to his memory (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ix. 507; Cussans, Hertfordshire, i. 160). He describes himself as a surveyor, but his time seems to have been mostly occupied in teaching various branches of mathematics, including ‘arithmetic, astronomy, land-measuring, gauging of vessels, trigonometry, navigation, and cosmography.’ For the use of his pupils he prepared some notes on ‘Napier's bones’ [see Napier or Neper, John], which he published in 1648 under the title ‘Rabdologia, or the Art of numbering by Rods … with many Examples for the practice of the same, first invented by Lord Napier, Baron of Merchiston, and since explained and made useful for all sorts of men. By Seth Partridge, Surveyor and Practitioner in the Mathematicks,’ London, 12mo. It is dedicated to Dr. Wright; its object is to explain in a popular manner the use of ‘Napier's bones,’ and for this reason it was written in English, being the first book on logarithms in the vernacular. On 1 Aug. 1657 Partridge completed another mathematical work, entitled ‘The Description and Use of an Instrument called the Double Scale of Proportion;’ but it does not seem to have been published until 1672; other editions followed in 1685 and 1692, but these are, except for the title-pages, merely reprints. The book is dedicated to Sir Richard Combe, knt.

Partridge's son (1635–1703) and grandson (1675–1748), a citizen and goldsmith of London, both named Seth Partridge, were also buried in Hemel-Hempstead church.

[Works in Brit. Mus. Libr.; Maseres' Scriptores Logarithmici, vol. i. p. xl; Montucla's Hist. des Mathématiques, ii. 24; De Morgan's Arithmetical Books, pp. 42, 51; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 507; Cussans's Hertfordshire, i. 160; Allibone's Dict. of English and American Lit.]

A. F. P.