Tag Archives: Chapter House

No Mathematics!

Trouble erupted at the meeting of the Chapter House Philosophical Society in January 1785 when one of its members proposed reading a paper on astronomy. The club had been formed in 1780 to discuss ‘Natural Philosophy in its most extensive signification’, but the issue of whether ‘natural philosophy’ a.k.a. science extended as far as mathematical topics had never arisen. The Chair of the Society argued that discussion of topics that might lead to ‘mathematical disquisition’ were unconstitutional. The founding documents of the society were sent for, and finding that they did not exclude exact sciences, the chair next argued that the society should be governed by custom rather than law. Finally a resolution was introduced to ban astronomy in the future. The mathematical instrument maker George Adams Jr., who had just been elected a member of the society at the same meeting, must have wondered what kind of a club he had joined.

I thought this was interesting in light of Sorrenson‘s point about the lack of interest in mathematics at the Royal Society.

This account is taken from the delightful description of events in Millburn (2000), pp. 188-189.


Millburn, John R. (2000). Adams of Fleet Street. Instrument Makers to King George III. Aldershot: Ashgate.