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He was born in Hertfordshire, and educated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1636 and M.A. in 1640, becoming a Fellow in that year. In 1643 he was chosen university mathematical lecturer, but he was deprived of his fellowship next year for opposing the Solemn League and Covenant (with Isaac Barrow, John Barwick and Peter Gunning).
In 1649, he became Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford University, and gained a high reputation by his theory of planetary motion, propounded in the works entitled In Ismaelis Bullialdi astronomiae philolaicae fundamenta inquisitio brevis (Oxford, 1653), against the cosmology of Ismael Boulliau, and Astronomia geometrica (London, 1656) on the system of Kepler. About this time he was engaged in a decades-long philosophical controversy with Thomas Hobbes: Seth Ward and John Wallis, both Savilian professors and members of the Anglican clergy, felt offended by the works of Hobbes, particularly after Leviathan was released.: 273
King Charles II appointed him to the livings of St Lawrence Jewry in London, and Uplowman in Devonshire, in 1661. He also became dean of Exeter Cathedral (1661) and rector of St Breock, Cornwall in 1662. In the latter year he was consecrated Bishop of Exeter, and in 1667 he was translated to the see of Salisbury. The office of Chancellor of the Order of the Garter was conferred on him in 1671.
In his diocese he showed great severity to nonconformists, and rigidly enforced the act prohibiting conventicles (unofficial religious meetings). He spent a great deal of money on the restoration of the cathedrals of Worcester and Salisbury. He died at Knightsbridge on 6 January 1689.
In 2017 Bishop Wordsworth's Grammar School named its new, fifth house (Ward House) after Bishop Ward.
- Wright, Peter (1975). "Astrology and Science in Seventeenth-Century England". Social Studies of Science. 5 (4): 405. doi:10.1177/030631277500500402. PMID 11610221. S2CID 32085403.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ward, Seth". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 321.
- "Ward, Seth (WRT632S)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Galileo project page
- "The Galileo Project".
- Siegmund Probst (September 1993). "Infinity and creation: the origin of the controversy between Thomas Hobbes and the Savilian Professors Seth Ward and John Wallis". British Journal for the History of Science. 26 (3): 271–279. doi:10.1017/s0007087400031058.
- Allen G. Debus, Science and Education in the Seventeenth Century: The Webster-Ward Debate (1970).
- Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. .