Samuel Clarke

Born: 11 Oct 1675 in Norwich, England
Died: 17 May 1729 in London, England

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Samuel Clarke was educated at Norwich, then entered Caius College, Cambridge in 1691. He studied Newton's works and graduated in 1695 offering some of Newton's work for his final examinations. He became a Fellow teaching at Cambridge until 1700.

A chance meeting with Whiston, at that time chaplain to the Bishop of Norwich, in a Norwich coffee house led to their discussing Newton's work. Whiston introduced Clarke to the Bishop of Norwich and, when Whiston went to Cambridge, Clarke became chaplain to the Bishop of Norwich. He held this post for 12 years.

Clarke was considered the greatest metaphysician in England when Locke died in 1704. In 1706 Newton asked Clarke to translate his Opticks into Latin.

Clarke attracted great controversy with his religious views having few supporters. However he became rector of Westminster, London and chaplain to Queen Anne. Further religious controversy followed and Clarke had to make various declarations of orthodox belief which seemed to be just enough to save him although it was noted that he had not recanted.

After the death of Queen Anne, he became a close advisor to the Princess of Wales, who was to become Queen Caroline. He had weekly meetings with her and at her request he entered into dispute with Leibniz over the nature of space and time.

Clarke defended Newtonian theory and corresponded with Leibniz making significant contributions to mechanics during the correspondence.

When Newton died in 1727, Clarke was offered the position at the mint but he turned it down. Although most of his publications were on religion and metaphysics, one of his last works was On the proportion of force to velocity in bodies in motion published a year before his death.

References (7 books/articles)

References elsewhere in this archive:

Samuel Clarke was elected to the Royal Society of London in 1728. You can see a history of the Royal Society and a list of the members among the mathematicians in our archive.

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JOC/EFR December 1996