Ward, Seth

, an English prelate, famous chiefly for his skill in mathematics and astronomy, was the son of John Ward an attorney, and born at Buntingford, in Hertfordshire. Wood says he was baptised the 16th of April, 1617; but Dr. Pope places his birth in 1618. He was taught grammar-learning and arithmetic in the school at Buntingford; and thence removed to Sidney college in Cambridge, into which he was admitted in 1632. Dr. Samuel Ward, the master of that college, was greatly taken with his ingenuity and good nature; and shewed him particular favour, partly perhaps from his being of the same surname, though there was no affinity at all between them. Here he applied himself with great vigour to his studies, and particularly to mathematics, his initiation into which, Pope thus relates: “In the college library Mr. Ward found by chance some books that treated of the mathematics, and they being woolly new to him, he inquired all the college over for a | guide to instruct him in that way; but all his search was in vain; these books were Greek, I mean unintelligible, to all the fellows of the college. Nevertheless he took courage, and attempted them himself, proprio Marte, without any confederates or assistance, or intelligence in that country, and that with so good success, that in a short time he not only discovered those Indies, but conquered several kingdoms therein, and brought thence a great part of their treasure, which he shewed publicly to the whole university not long after.

Mr. Ward having taken his master’s degree in 1640, was chosen fellow of his college. In the same year Dr. Cosins, the vice-chancellor, pitched upon Ward to be prevaricator, the same office which is called in Oxford terree filius; and he took so many freedoms in his speech, that the vice-chancellor suspended him from his degree; though he reversed the censure the day following.

The civil war breaking out, Ward was involved not a little in the consequences of it. His good master and patron, Dr. Samuel Ward, was in 1643 imprisoned in St> John’s college, which was then made a gaol by the parliament-forces; and Ward, thinking that gratitude obliged him to attend him, continued with him to his death, which happened soon after. He was also himself ejected from his fellowship for refusing the covenant; against which he soon after joined with Mr. Peter Gunning, Mr. John Barwick, Mr. Isaac Barrow, afterwards bishop of St. Asaph, and others in drawing up a treatise, which was afterwards printed. Being now obliged to leave Cambridge, he resided some time with Dr, Ward’s relations in and about London, and at other times with the mathematician Oughtred, at Albury, in Surrey, with whom he had cultivated an acquaintance, and under whom he prosecuted his mathematical studies. He was invited likewise by the earl of Carlisle and other persons of quality, to reside in their families, with offers of large pensions, but preferred the house of his friend Ralph Freeman, at Aspenden in Hertfordshire, esq. whose sons he instructed, and with whom he continued for the most part till 1649, and then he resided some months with lord Wen man, of Thame Park in Oxfordshire.

He had not been in this noble family long before the visitation of the university of Oxford began; the effect of which was, that many learned and eminent persons were | turned out, and among them Mr. Greaves, the Savilian professor of astronomy, who had a little before distinguished himself by his work upon the Egyptian pyramids. Mr. Greaves laboured to procure Ward for his successor, whose abilities in this way were universally known and acknowledged, and effected it. Ward then entered himself of Wadham-college, for the sake of Dr. Wilkins, who was the warden; and, Oct. 1649, was incorporated master of arts. At this time there were several learned men of the university, and in the city, who often met at the warden’s lodgings in Wadham college, and sometimes elsewhere, to improve themselves by making philosophical experiments. Among these were Dr. Wilkins and Mr. Ward, Mr. Robert Boyle, Dr. Willis, Dr. Goddard, Dr. Wallis, Dr. Bathurst, Mr. Rooke, &c. Besides reading his astronomical lectures, Mr. Ward preached frequently, though not obliged to it, for sir Henry Savile had exempted his professors from all university exercises, that they might have the more leisure to attend to the employment he designed them for. Mr. Ward’s sermons were strong, methodical, and clear, and sometimes pathetic and eloquent.

Soon after his arrival at Oxford, he took the engagement, or oath, to be faithful to the commonwealth of England, as it was then established, without a king or house of lords: for, though he had refused the covenant while the king was supposed to be in any condition of succeeding, yet, now these hopes were at an end, and the government, together with the king, was overturned, he thought that no good purpose could be answered by obstinately holding out any longer against the powers that were. In the mean time his first object was to bring the astronomy- lectures, Which had long been neglected and disused, into repute again; and for this purpose he read them very constantly, never missing one reading-day all the while he held the lecture.

About this time, Dr. Brownrig, the ejected bishop of Exeter, lived retired at Sunning in Berkshire; where Mr. Ward, who was his chaplain, used often to wait upon him. In one of these visits, the bishop conferred on him the precentorship of the church of Exeter; and told him, that, though it might then seem a gift and no gift, yet that upon, the king’s restoration, of which the bishop was confident, it would be of some emolument to him. He paid the bishop’s secretary the full fees, as if he were immediately to take | possession, though this happened in the very height of their despair; and Ward’s acquaintance rallied him upon it, telling him that they would not give him half a crown for his precentorship. But the professor knew that, let things take what turn they would, he was now safe; and that, if the king ever returned, it would be a valuable promotion, and in fact it afterwards laid the foundation of his future riches and preferment.

In 1654, both the Savilian professors performed their exercise in order to proceed doctors in divinity; and, when they were to be presented, Wallis claimed precedency. (See Wallis.) This occasioned a dispute; which being decided in favour of Ward, who was really the senior, Wallis went out grand compounder, and by that means obtained the precedency. In 1657 he was elected principal of Jesus-college by the direction of Dr. Mansell, who had been ejected from that headship many years before; but Cromwell put in one Francis Howell, with a promise of So/. a year to Dr. Ward, which was never paid. In 1659 he was chosen president of Trinity-college, although absolutely disqualified for the office, and was therefore obliged, at the restoration, to resign it. At that time, however, he was presented to the vicarage of St. Lawrence-Jewry: for, though he was not distinguished by his sufferings during the exile of the royal family, yet he was known to be so averse to the measures of the late times, and to be so well affected to the royal cause, that his compliances were forgiven. He was installed also, in 1660, in the precentorship of the church of Exeter. In 1661 he became fellow of the Royal Society, and dean of Exeter; and the following year was advanced to the bishopric of that church. Dr. Pope tells us, he was promoted to that see, without knowing any thing of it, by the interest of the duke of Albemarle, sir Hugh Pollard, and other gentlemen, whom he had obliged during his residence at Exeter.

In 1667 he was translated to the see of Salisbury; and, in 1671, was made chancellor of the order of the garter, being the first protestant bishop that held that office, which he procured to be annexed to the see of Salisbury, after it had been held by laymen above a hundred and fifty years. Bishop Davenant had endeavoured to procure the sajne, but failed, principally owing to the troubles coming on Ward’s first care, after his advancement to Salisbury, was to repair and beautify his cathedral and palace; | and then to suppress the nonconformists and their conventicles in his dioeese. This so enraged their party, that, in 1669, they forged a petition against him, under the hand’s of some chief clothiers; pretending, that they were persecuted, and their trade ruined: but it was made appear at the council-table that this petition was a notorious libel, and that none of those there mentioned to be persecuted and ruined, were so much as summoned into the ecclesiastical court .*


Let this be said once few all, that he was no violent man, nor of a persecuting spirit, as these petitioners represented him; but if at any time he was more active than ordinary against the dissenters, it was by express command from the Court, sometimes by letters:, and sometimes given in charges by the judges of the assizes, which councils altered frequently, now in favour of the disseuters, and then again in opposition to them j as it is well known to those who lived then, and had the least insight into public affairs. It is true, he was for the act against conventicles, and laboured much to get it past, not without the order and direction of the greatest authority both civil and ecclesiastical, not out of enmity to the dissenters persons, as they unjustly suggested, but lore to the repose and welfare of the government j for he believed if the growth of them were not timely suppressed, it would either cause a necessity of a standing army to preserve the peace, or a general toleration, which would end in popery, whither all things then had an apparent tendency.Pope’s Life of Ward*

Bishop Ward was one of those unhappy persons who have the misfortune to outlive their faculties. He dated his indisposition of health from a fever in 1660, of which he was not well cured; and, the morning he was consecrated bishop of Exeter in 1662, he was so ill, that he did not imagine he should outlive the solemnity. After he was bishop of Salisbury he was seized with a dangerous scorbutical atrophy and looseness: but this was removed by riding-exercise. Yet, in course of time, melancholy and loss of memory gradually came upon him; which, joined with some difference he had with Dr. Pierce, the dean of his church, to whom he had refused an unreasonable request, and who pursued him. with great virulence and malice, at length totally deprived him of all sense. He lived to the Revolution, but without knowing anything of that event, although he subscribed in May 1688 the bishops’ petition against reading king James’s declaration of liberty of conscience, and died at Knightsbridge Jan. 6, 1689, in the seventy-second year of his age. He was interred in his cathedral at Salisbury, where a monument was erected to his memory, by his nephew, Seth Ward, treasurer of the church. The bishop died unmarried.

Mr. Oughtred, in the preface to his “Clavis | Mathematica,” calls him “a prudent, pious, and ingenious, person; admirably skilled, not only in mathematics, but also in all kinds of polite literature.” Mr. Oughtred informs us, that he was the first in Cambridge who had expounded his “Clavis Mathematica,” and that, at his importunate desire, he made additions to, and republished that work. Bishop Burnet says, “Ward was a man of great reach, went deep in mathematical studies, and was a very dexterous man, if not too dexterous; for his sincerity was much questioned. He had complied during the late times, and held in by taking the covenant; so he was hated by the high men as a time-server. But the lord Clarendon saw, that most of the bishops were men of merit by their sufferings, but of no great capacity for business. So he brought Ward in, as a man fit to govern the church; and Ward, to get his former errors to be forgot, went into the high notions of a severe conformity, and became the most considerable man on the bishops’ bench. He was a profound statesman, but a very indifferent clergyman.

In the House of Lords he was esteemed an admirable speaker and a close reasoner, equal at least to the earl of Shaftesbury. He was a great benefactor to both his bishoprics, as by his interest the deanry of Burien, in Cornwall was annexed to the former, and the chancellorship of the garter to the latter. He was polite, hospitable, and generous: and in his life-time, founded the college at Salisbury, for the reception and support of ministers’ widows, and the sumptuous hospital at Buntingford, in Hertfordshire, the place of his birth. His intimate friend, Dr. Walter Pope, has given us a curious account of his life, interspersed with agreeable anecdotes of his friends. Pope’s zeal and style, however, provoked a severe pamphlet from Dr. Thomas Wood, a civilian, called “An Appendix to the Life,1679, 12mo, bound up, although rarely, with Pope’s work.

Bishop Ward’s works are, 1. “A Philosophical Essay towards an Eviction of the Being and Attributes of God, the Immortality of the Souls of Men, and the Truth and Authority of Scripture.Oxford, 1652, 8vo. 2, “De Cometis, ubi de Cometarum natura disseritur, Nova Cometarum Theoria, & novissimae Cometa? historia proponitur. Praelectio Oxonii habita.Oxford, 1653, 4to. 3. “Inquisitio in Ismaelis Bullialdi Astronomiae Philolaicae fundamenta,” Printed with the book “De | Cometis.” 4. “Idea Trigonometric demonstrate in usum juventutis Oxon/' Oxford, 1654, 4to. 5.” Vindiciae Academiarusn: containing some brief Animadversions upon Mr. John Webster’s Book styled The Examen of Academies.“Oxford, 1654, 4to. To thrs book is prefixed an Epistle written to the Author by one who subscribes himself N. S.. and who is supposed to be Dr. John Wilkins, those two letters, being the last of both his names. 6.” Appendix concerning what Mr. Hobbes and Mr. William Deli have published on the same Arguments.“Printed at the end of” Vindiciffi Academiarum.“7.” In Thomse Hobbii Philosophiam Exercitatio Epistolica. Ad ampliss. eruditissimumque virum D. Johannem Wilkinsium S.T.D Collegii Wadhamensis Gardianum. Cui subjungitnr Appendicula ad Calumnias ab eodem Hobbio (in sex Documentis nuperrime editis) in Authorera congestas, ResponsioJ“Oxford, 1656, 8vo. 8.” Astronomia Geometrica, ubi methodus^proponitur, qui primariorum Planetarum Astronomia, sive Elliptica, sive circularis possit Geometrice absolvi." London^ 1656, 8vo. 9. Several Sermons: as I. Against Resistance of lawful Powers, preached November the 5th, 1661, on Rom. xiii. 2. II. Against the Anti-scripturists, preached February the 20th 1669, on 2 Tina. iii. 16. III. Concerning the sinfulness^ danger, an-d remedies of Infidelity, preached February the 16th, 1667, on Heb. iii. 12. London, 1670, 8vo. IV. Sermon before the House of Peers at Westminster, October the 10th, 1666, on Eccles. ii. 9. V. Sermon concerning the strangeness, frequency, and desperate consequence of Impenitency, preached -April the 1st, 1666, soon after the Plague, on Revel, ix. 20. VL Sermon against Ingratitude, on Deut. xxxii. 6. VI 1. An Apology for the Mysteries of the Gospel, preached February the 1.6th, 1672, on Rom. i. 16. Some of which Sermons having been separately printed at several times, were all published in one volume at London, 1674, 8vo. VIII. The Christian’s Victory over Death, preached at the funeral of George dukeofAlbemarle in the Collegiate church of Westminster, April the 30th, 1670, on I Cor. xv. 57. London, 1670, 4to. IX. The Case of Joram, preached before the House of Peers, January the 30th, 1673, on 2 Kings vi. last verse. London, 1674, 4to.

That by which he has chiefly signalized himself, as to astronomical invention, is his celebrated approximation to | the true place of a planet, from a given mean anomaly, founded upon an hypothesis, that the motion of a planet, though it be really performed in an elliptic orbit, may yet be considered as equable as to angular velocity, or with an uniform circular motion round the upper focus of the ellipse, or that next the aphelion, as a centre. By this means he rendered the praxis of calculation much easier than any that could be used in resolving what has been commonly called Kepler’s problem, in which the coequate anomaly was to be immediately investigated from the mean elliptic one. His hypothesis agrees very well with those orbits which are elliptical but in a very small degree, as that of the Earth and Venus: but in others, that are more elliptical, as those of Mercury, Mars, &c. this approximation stood in need of a correction, which was made by Bulliald. Both the method, and the correction, are very well explained and demonstrated, by Keill, in his Astronomy, lecture 24. 1

1 Life by Pope. Biog. Brit, —Hutton’s Dictionary. Granger. —Ath. Ox. vol. II. Warton’s Life of Bathurst, p. 52 5-i, 145.