Dr. John Wallis was born at Ashford in Kent, of which parish his father was minister. After learning a little arithmetic of his brother, he made his way in the mathematics by the force of a genius which seemed to be designed by nature for this branch of science, and that was equal to every thing to which it was applied. He was not content with treading in the footsteps of other mathematicians, but in several instances went beyond them; and is by Mr. Glanvill ranked with Vieta and Des Cartes, who are of the first class of discoverers in mathematical knowledge. He invented the method for measuring all kinds of curves, and was thought to have gone nearer than any other man towards squaring the circle, which he has demonstrated to be impossible. He greatly improved decimal arithmetic, and was the first that reduced a fraction, by a continued division, to an infinite series; which series was afterwards employed by lord Brouncker in squaring the hyperbola. He was the inventor of the modern art of deciphering, which he practised in the time of the civil war. The writers of the papers which he undertook to explain, were astonished when they saw them deciphered; and fairly owned that there was great truth, if not infallibility, in his art. He was probably the first that invented a method of teaching deaf and dumb persons to speak, and to understand a language. He composed an English grammar, in which are many things entirely his own, and which shew at once the grammarian and the philosopher. Ob. 28 Oct. 1703, Æt. 87.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.