Paul Brewster • Link
William Petty was born May 26, 1623, at Romsey, in Hampshire, where his father was a poor clothier. Like many another English refugee during the Civil War, he made his way, by various shifts, to Utrecht and Leyden. There, as well as in Amsterdam and Paris, he studied languages, chemistry, and medicine. In 1648 the Parliamentary party, bent upon reorganizing Royalist Oxford, made him Fellow of Brasenose College, and soon afterwards Professor of Anatomy. Two years later he was further advanced to be physician for the army in Ireland, and soon became a confidant of Henry Cromwell, whom he served as clerk of the council at Dublin until shortly before the Restoration. While there he executed with great success the famous "Down Survey" of the forfeited lands of the rebellious Irish. Incidentally he speculated in land debentures and laid the foundations of his large fortune.
In 1661 he was knighted by Charles II; and, finding a little leisure for the first time in a decade, he turned his attention once more to science. He helped to organize the Royal Society, in whose prenatal activities he had participated at Oxford. He read several papers before it. He experimented at length with a "double bottom boat," which seems to have been a sort of catsmarsh. In 1666 he resumed his residence in Ireland. There lawsuits about his lands and the demands of the flourishing "industrial colony of Protestants" which he had established at Kenmare in Kerry took most of his time for the ensuing twenty years. He was able, however, to make repeated and prolonged visits to London, and to agitate with vigor for fiscal reforms in Ireland. But the exchequer of Charles II could ill afford to reject any proposal, however harmful to that island, which promised ready cash at Whitehall; and Petty's arguments in favor of the direct collection of taxes and of establishing a statistical office fell upon deaf ears.
The accession of James II, who as Duke of York and Lord High Admiral had taken an interest in Petty's shipbuilding experiments, greatly raised his hopes of ultimate success; and he put forth a dozen essays to prove his ease. But he was destined to renewed disappointment, and died December 16, 1687, his public aims unachieved.
vicenzo • Link
Petty Wm has had a very interesting Life, including early sailing days with being flogged, disabled and thus got a good education from French monks.
using his witts to win a duel.
vicenzo • Link
DR Petty had strong ties to Mr Barlow [he was the go between Mr P and Mr B]
vicenzo • Link
"...Petty's letter to Hartlib on education was his first publication but in the next year (1648) he patented a 'double writing' machine, which was a device for making copies of handwritten documents…”
He received the ok to get profits by H of L & H of C:
one Wm. Petty secured invention of Double and Multiple writing march 1648.
name also spelt prettie
dirk • Link
[search for "Sir William Petty" -- without quotation marks]
Michael Robinson • Link
Petty is the subject of a "Life" by Aubrey:-
Richard Barber, ed., John Aubrey Brief Lives. London: 1975, pp. 246-252.
Pedro • Link
The article from Wikipedia gives extensive information on Petty, but the great thing for me about the site is the hidden gems contributed by the annotators, and sometimes missed if confronted by the size of the Wikipedia article.
“He befriended Hartlib and Boyle, and he became a member of the London Philosophical Society, and possibly met John Milton. By 1651, he had risen to Professor of Anatomy at Brasenose College, Oxford and was also Professor of Music in London.”
Here, concerning Petty, is a gem from Lisa Jardine’s “The curious Life of Robert Hooke”…
“In December 1650, Willis and Petty had achieved instant notoriety when they discovered that the felon’s cadaver that they had gathered to dissect at Petty’s Buckley Hall Lodgings in the High Street was not in fact dead. Nan Greene, a hapless young woman who had been hanged for infanticide, was duly resuscitated and nursed back to health. Her revivers then petitioned the authorities successfully for a pardon, in light of the extraordinary nature of her miracle survival. Numerous broadsheets and poems were published, including witty verses by Walter Pope and Wren…On the strength of the publicity surrounding the Nan Greene miracle revival, Petty (hitherto a kind of freelance anatomy tutor, based at Brasenose College) was appointed Tomlins Reader in anatomy by the (Oxford) University.”
William Petty, who was some time professor of anatomy in Oxford, was fellow of the College of Physicians in the reign of Charles II. He gave early proofs of that comprehensive and inquisitive genius for which he was afterwards so eminent; and which seems to have been designed by nature for every branch of science to which he applied himself. At the age of fifteen, he was master of such a compass of knowledge in the languages, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, navigation, practical mathematics, and mechanical trades, as few are capable of attaining in the longest life. He made his way in the world under great disadvantages in point of circumstances, having acquired a very moderate fortune with as much difficulty, as he afterwards rose with ease to wealth and affluence. He was an excellent chymist and anatomist, and a perfect master of every other kind of knowledge that was requisite to the profession of physic. He was a very able mathematician, had a fine hand at drawing, was skilful in the practical parts of mechanics, and a most exact surveyor. But what he particularly applied himself to, and understood beyond any man of his age, was the knowledge of the common arts of life, and political arithmetic. His admirable essays in this art, have even raised his reputation to a higher pitch than it rose to in his lifetime; as experience has fully proved the justness of his calculations. This great man, who knew better than any of his contemporaries how to enrich the nation and himself, died the 16th of Dec. 1687, in the 65th year of his age.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.