Tag Archives: FRS

Henry Stebbing

The Rev. Henry Stebbing (1716—1787), FRS, FSA, seems to have been as mild and pleasant a man as he is said by his son to have been. His personality may have been influenced by that of his father, Rev. Henry Stebbing (1687—1763), who was anything but. Henry Stebbing the elder was a tireless champion of what he considered to be religious orthodoxy and an inveterate challenger of those with whom he disagreed. He took on Methodists, Quakers, Bishop Hoadly, James Foster and William Warburton. The usually sober DNB characterizes these pamphleteering spats as “entertainingly vituperative” and notes that some of the best bits were reprinted in the Gentleman’s Magazine. Stebbing’s staunch defense of the Anglican hierarchy, and the Bishop of London in particular, did nothing to harm his career. He was appointed rector of a variety of parishes in Norfolk and Suffolk, most notably Garboldisham, and in 1731 was appointed preacher to Gray’s Inn in London. The next year he was appointed a Chaplain in Ordinary to the king, becoming archdeacon of Wiltshire in 1735, and Chancellor of Sarum in 1739. He died at Gray’s Inn in 1763, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral.

Henry Stebbing the elder married Sarah Camell of the extensive Suffolk and Norfolk Camell family and together they had five children of whom Henry was the second child and eldest son. Henry was borh in 1716 in Rickinghall, Suffolk, where his father was the rector at the time. In due course Henry followed his father to St. Catherine’s College in Cambridge, taking his BA in 1738 and becoming a fellow of the college in 1739. He was ordained deacon in 1739 and priest in 1741; his first appointment was vicar of Coton in Cambridgeshire before he was appointed rector of Gimingham and Trunch, Norfolk in 1748, a post he held until his death, although he does not seem to have been resident. Following his father, he was appointed preacher at Gray’s Inn in 1749 and was also a Chaplain in Ordinary to the king. Henry’s brother, Robert, also entered the clergy and was a long-time rector of Beaconsfield, where his gravestone records that he was “for a period of thirty-one years the assiduous and constantly residing Rector of this Church”. Meanwhile, Henry lived at Gray’s Inn.

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Sir Charles Frederick

Sir Charles Frederick (1709—1785) was a subscriber to the second edition of Kirby’s Method of Perspective, and one of his sponsors for Fellow of the Royal Society. He was born in Madras, India, where his father Sir Thomas Frederick was on the council of Fort St. George (according to the DNB and Spier-Kagan) or governor of Fort St. David (according to the History of Parliament). He was educated back in England at Westminster School and New College, Oxford and then proceeded to the law, entering Middle Temple in 1728. An antiquarian with particular interests in numismatics and architecture, he joined the Society of Antiquaries in 1731 and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1733 before he was twenty-five.

In 1737 he set off for Italy and points East with his elder brother John, viewing antiquities and building up his collections. According to Spier-Kagan, they visited “Genoa, Pavia, Milan, Parma, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Venice, before going on to Constantinople and perhaps other destinations in the Near East, returning through Paris early in 1740″ (38). While in Rome in 1738, Frederick had his portrait painted by Andrea Casali.

Frederick was an accomplished draughtsman, producing numerous drawings of architecture and sculpture for the Society of Antiquaries, as well as drawing his own extensive coin collection. It was presumably his concern for draughtsmanship that accounted for his interest in Kirby’s works.

On his return to England, Frederick was elected a Member of Parliament, first for New Shoreham from 1741 to 1754 (succeeding his brother John), and then for Queenborough from 1754 to 1784. However, he was less a politician than a civil servant. In 1746, he was appointed Clerk of the Deliveries for the Board of Ordnance and in 1750 promoted to Surveyor General of the Ordnance, a post he held until 1782. He appears not to have spoken in parliament on any topic except those directly related to his work in the Ordnance department. In his capacity with the Ordnance, he was in charge of the fireworks display in Green Park in 1749 celebrating the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, for which Handel composed the ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks‘. He was made a Knight companion of the Order of the Bath in 1761.

Charles Frederick married Lucy Boscawen (1710—1784), eldest daughter of Hugh Boscawen, first Viscount Falmouth, in 1746. Together they had six children, four sons and two daughters.

When Frederick died in 1785, his will directed that his collections of books, coins, and other antiquities be sold at auction. Among the books auctioned, Frederick had Kirby’s Method of Perspective, listed as from 1754, which would make it a first edition, although he subscribed only to the second. He also had a copy of the Suffolk Traveller of 1735, a book listed as Kirby’s Perspective in 2 volumes, folio, of 1765 which really ought to be the Perspective of Architecture of 1761, as well as a copy of Thomas Malton’s Perspective from 1776, and a presentation copy of John Lodge Cowley’s Theory of Perspective of 1765.

Sources:

DNB

HoP Commons: 1715—1754; 1754—1790.

Spier, Jeffrey; and Kagan, Jonathan. `Sir Charles Frederick and the forgery of ancient coins in eighteenth-century Rome’. Journal of the History of Collections
12 (1) (2000), 35—90.

Thomas Forster

A certain amount of mystery and confusion surrounds the Rev. Thomas Forster (?—1785), Rector of Halesworth in Suffolk. Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses has him born around 1708, coming from Durham, attending Queens’ College, ordained priest in 1735, and “perhaps” Vicar of Tunstead and Rector of Halesworth. The CCED is more cautious, listing two Thomas Forster’s as Rector of Halesworth, but noting that they are possibly not the same. In fact, the Durham Thomas Forster was the son of Rev. Joseph Forster of Norton in County Durham and died in 1743 at the age of 35.

Our Thomas Forster must be the other one (CCED #125060), about whom less is known. Although the CCED doesn’t give a Venn reference for this chap, he is presumably the Thomas born around 1722 who was son of George Forster (or Foster) of Barbados and one of three sons sent to Cambridge. This 1722 Thomas was ordained priest in 1746 and promptly appointed Vicar of Tunstead and, later the same year, Rector of Halesworth.

Thomas held Tunstead for thirty years before turning it over to his son Samuel, and was Rector of Halesworth until he died. I think. One complication is an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal for 10 August 1765 for an auction of “All the entire Houshold Furniture, and other valuable Effects of the Rev. Mr. Forster, at the Rectory in Halesworth…” We shall cheerfully assume he sold off all his belongings, including “a vertical Harpsicord of curious Construction, a reflecting and refracting Telescope, a Wilson microscope” etc. on a whim and press on.

Thomas Forster married Elizabeth Thompson of Southwold and they had at least four children who survived to adulthood. The eldest, Thompson Forster was an “eminent surgeon”. Samuel was the second son and went on to be Headmaster of Norwich Grammar School as well as Rector of Shotley. The third son, John, was also a clergyman. A daughter, Elizabeth, married Edward Berry in 1766 in London. Berry was apparently a merchant who generated a large family and then promptly died leaving a poor widow and numerous progeny. Their son, Edward Berry, joined the Navy and rose to become an admiral, being captain of Nelson’s flagship, the Vanguard, at the Battle of the Nile. Beforehand, he had recently married his cousin Louisa, daughter of Samuel Forster.

Thomas Forster wrote a couple of tracts on religious doctrine and had a collection of sermons published. In 1766, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the citation reading,

Thomas Forster Clerk, Rector of Halesworth in the County of Suffolk, being desirous of the Honor of Election into the Royal Society: We the underwritten recommend him on our personal knowledge, as a Gentleman well versed in several Branches of Literature, likely to be a useful member of the Society, & deserving that Honor,

although he does not appear to have done anything very noteworthy at the Society. In 1767, he was one of the proposers for Joshua Kirby’s election.

Joshua Kirby, F.R.S.

Joshua Kirby was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on 26 March 1767. His election card is now, as the Royal Society says on its web page, barely legible, but they do manage a transcription of his citation:

Joshua Kirby of Kew in the County of Surry [sic] Esq. Designer in Perspective to their Majesties, & Author of Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective made easy, &c & of other considerable Improvements in that Science, being very desirous of the honor of Election into the Royal Society; We whose names are underwritten, recommend him on our personal Knowledge, as a Gentleman likely to prove a useful Member

How useful a member he was is unclear, as he seems to have had little to do with the Society, although he did sponsor two Fellows, Andrew Joseph Planta, and John Lodge Cowley. Kirby himself was proposed by:

 

Andreas Planta

Rev. Andreas Joseph Planta (1717—1773) had an interesting background. His family was prominent in the Grisons region of Switzerland/Italy (depending on your period), tracing their lineage back to the twelfth century, and a family of the same name and locale was also prominent in Imperial Rome. Andreas himself became a pastor in Castasegna, a rare example of an Italian-speaking Protestant parish. After a period as Professor of Mathematics at Erlangen, in 1752 or 1753 he came to London as pastor to the German Reformed Church at Savoy. In 1758 he was also appointed as a part-time assistant librarian at the British Museum and in the 1760s was engaged as a tutor in Italian to Queen Charlotte.  One of the duties of the British Museum staff was to escort visitors around the collection, and in 1765 Planta showed the Museum to the Mozart family, resulting in a gift of manuscripts of several of the young Wolfgang’s works to the collection.

In 1770 Andreas, or Andrew as he went by in England, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, his citation reading,

Andrew Joseph Planta of the British Museum MA, & Minister of the German Reformed Church at the Savoy, a Gentleman of good learning, and well versed in natural knowledge, being desirous of becoming a member of the Royal Society; we recommend him, of our Personal acquaintance, as likely to be a valuable & useful member.

His proposers, several of whom had connections to the British Museum, were:

  • Rev. Gregory Sharpe (1713—1771);
  • Gowin Knight (1713—1772), First Librarian of the British Museum;
  • Henry Baker (1698—1774);
  • Jerome De Salis (1709—1794) (the De Salis family was equally prominent in Grisons);
  • Joseph Ayloffe (1709—1781);
  • Matthew Duane (1707—1785), trustee of the British Museum;
  • Charles Morton (1716—1799), Librarian of the British Museum;
  • Samuel Harper (c. 1732—1803), under-librarian at the British Museum;
  • Mathew Maty (1718—1776), librarian at the British Museum;
  • Richard Penneck (1728—1803), Keeper of the Reading Room at the British Museum;
  • Rev. Henry Putman (1725—1797);
  • Joshua Kirby (1716—1774), and;
  • John Bevis (1695—1771).

Andreas Planta married Margarete Scartazzini Debolziani when a pastor in Castasegna. Of their children, son Joseph in turn became Librarian at the British Museum (and his son Joseph a prominent diplomat), Elizabeth was governess to the notorious Mary Bowes, and Margaret and Frederica were English tutors to the princesses.

Henry Baker

Henry Baker, FRS (1698—1774) was an interesting person. His father, a Clerk in Chancery, died when he was young, and he was largely brought up by his grandmother. He was apprenticed as a bookseller, later declaring his apprenticeship ‘as agreeable a Part of Life as any I have ever known’. Not that he became a bookseller. At the end of his apprenticeship, he went off to visit some relatives and ended up staying for nine years. What caught his interest was the 8-year-old daughter of his host, John Forster, who had been born deaf. Baker undertook to teach Jane and her two younger siblings, also born deaf, to read, write and lip-read, a task in which he was successful and instructing the deaf became his main source of income. He charged high prices and a lucrative practice. He also swore his pupils to secrecy and never revealed the details of his procedure, although it was doubtless based on that devised by the mathematician John Wallis.

It was presumably through a shared interest in the education of the deaf that Baker met Daniel Defoe, whose youngest daughter Sophia he married. They had two sons. The elder, and more colorful one, David Erskine Baker translated Voltaire’s Metaphysics of Sir Isaac Newton into English when only seventeen, was trained as an engineer on account of his mathematical skill, and joined a troupe of travelling players. His brother Henry became a lawyer.

In his youth Baker wrote poetry. Together with Defoe he founded the Universal Spectator, and in the early 1740s he got interested in microscopes. His book on microscopes, about which we will write in a separate post, was much more successful than Benjamin Martin’s Micrographia Nova, selling out a first edition of 1000 copies in only a few months. Although primarily a popularizer rather than a researcher, he used the microscope to study both crystal growth and polyps, earning him a Fellowship in the Royal Society in 1741, and its Copley Medal in 1744.

Baker was an inveterate organizer, recorder and committee member, clearly relishing the organizational tasks involved with the Royal Society, the Society of Arts, the Society of Antiquaries, and the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. With these organizations he was intersecting Kirby’s orbit as Kirby was a member of these groups, too.

Most of the information in this post comes from the delightful article on Henry Baker by Gerard L’Estrange Turner.

References

Turner, G.L’E, 1974. ‘Henry Baker, F.R.S.: Founder of the Bakerian Lecture’. Notes Rec. R. Soc. Lond. October 1, 1974 29 1 53-79.