Isaac Barrow

Born: Oct 1630 in London, England
Died: 4 May 1677 in London, England

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Barrow developed a method of determining tangents that closely approached the methods of calculus, and he was first to recognise that integration and differentiation are inverse operations.
Barrow entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1644 receiving his degree in 1648. He edited works of Euclid, Archimedes and Apollonius using his skills as a scholar of Greek and of mathematics.

Nominated for a chair of Greek at Cambridge, he was driven out in 1655 because of his loyalist views. He then went on a four year tour of eastern Europe.

Returning to England in 1660 he took holy orders and was appointed to the Greek chair previously denied him. In order to augment his small income from the Greek chair he accepted an appointment to a geometry chair at Gresham College London.

Barrow soon gave up the geometry chair to serve as the first Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge from 1663 to 1669. Although the chair had few duties (lectures once a week for a term) Barrow worked harder than necessary by starting a series of introductory lectures.

Newton attended Barrow's lectures and addressed many important problems in physics as a result of Barrow's influence. Barrow magnanimously resigned in 1669 so that his own pupil Newton could fill the Lucasian chair.

Barrow's lectures for the years 1664 to 1666 were only published in 1683 after his death. His Lectiones Opticae and Lectiones Geometricae were published in 1669 and 1670 respectively with Newton assisting in their preparation.

Barrow served as chaplain to Charles II from 1670. After this he did no further mathematical work. In 1672 the King appointed him master and then vice-chancellor of Trinity College where he laid the foundations for the now famous library. The King said he gave the position to the best scholar in England.

References (20 books/articles)

Some pages from works by Barrow:

An extract from Lectiones geometricae (1670)
and a diagram from the same work.

References elsewhere in this archive:

Tell me about Barrow's contribution to the development of calculus

Barrow was among the first to investigate the Right Strophoid curve.

Isaac Barrow was elected to the Royal Society of London in 1663. You can see a history of the Royal Society and a list of the members among the mathematicians in our archive.

There is a Crater Barrow on the moon. You can see a list of lunar features named after mathematicians.

Other Web sites:

Rice University, USA

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JOC/EFR December 1996