Derham, William

, an excellent philosopher and divine, was born at Stoughton near Worcester, Nov. 26, 1657; and educated in grammar-learning at Ulockley in. | that county. In May 1675 he was admitted of Trinity college, Oxford and when he took his degree of B. A. was already distinguished for his learning and exemplary character. He was ordained deacon by Compton bishop of London, in May 1681; priest by Ward bishop of Salisbury, in July 1682; and was the same month presented to the vicarage of Wargrave in Berkshire. August 1689, he was presented to the valuable rectory of Upminster in Essex: which living, lying at a moderate distance from London, afforded him an opportunity of conversing and corresponding with the most eminent philosophers of the nation. Here in a retirement suitable to his contemplative and philosophical temper, he applied himself with great eagerness to the study of nature, and to mathematics and experimental philosophy; in which he became so eminent, that in 1702 he was chosen F. R. S. He proved one of the most useful and industrious members of this society, frequently publishing in the Philosophical Transactions curious observations and valuable pieces, as may be seen by their Index. In his younger years he published separately, “The artificial Clock-maker; or, a treatise of watch and clock-work, shewing to the meanest capacities the art of calculating numbers to all sorts of movements; the way to alter clock-work; to make chimes, and set them to musical notes; and to calculate and correct the motion of pendulums. Also numbers for divers movements: with the ancient and modern history of clockwork; and many instruments, tables, and other matters, never before published in any other book.” The fourth edition of this book, with large emendations, was published in 1734, 12mo. In 1711 and 1712 he preached “Sixteen Sermons” at Boyle’s lectures; which, with suitable alterations in the form, and notes, he published in 1713 under the title “Physico-theology; or, a demonstration of the beine: and attributes of God from his works of creation,” 8vo. In pursuance of the same design, he published, in 1714, “Astro-theology or, a demonstrationof the being and attributes of God from a survey of the heavens,” illustrated with copper-plates, 8vo. These works, the former especially, have been highly and justly valued, translated into French and several other languages, and have undergone several editions. In 1716 he was made a canon of Windsor, being at that time chaplain to the prince of Wales; and in 1730 received the degree of D. D. from | the university of Oxford by diploma, on account of his learning, and the services he had done to religion by his culture of natural knowledge “Ob libros,” as the terms of the diploma run, “ab ipso editos, quibus physicam & mathesin auctiorem reddidit, & ad religionem veramque fidem exornandam revocavit.” When Eleazer Albin published his natural history of birds and English insects, in 4 vols. 4to, with many beautiful cut?, it was accompanied with very curious notes and observations by our learned author. He also revised the “Miscellanea Curiosa,” published in three volumes, 1726, 8vo. He next published “Christo-theology or, a demonstration of the divine authority of the Christian religion, being the substance of a sermon preached at Bath, Nov. 2, 1729, and published at the earnest request of the auditory, 1730,” 8vo. The last work of his own composition was “A Defence of the Churches right in Leasehold Estates. In answer to a book called ‘An Inquiry into the customary estates and TenantRights of those who hold lands of the Church and other Foundations,’ published under the name of Everard Fleetwood, esq.1731, 8vo. But, besides his own, he published some pieces of Mr. Ray, and gave new editions of others, with great additions from the author’s own Mss. To him the world is likewise indebted for the “Philosophical Experiments and observations of the late eminent Dr. Robert Hooke, and other eminent virtuosos in his time, 1726,” 8vo; and he communicated to the royal society several pieces, which he received from his learned correspondents.

This great and good man having thus spent his life, making all his researches subservient to the cause of religion and virtue, died, in his 78th year, April 5, 1735, at Upminster, where he was buried. He left behind him a valuable collection of curiosities; among the rest, a specimen of insects, and of most kinds of birds in this island, of which he had preserved the male and female. It may be necessary just to observe, that Dr. Derham was very well skilled in medical as well as physical knowledge; and was constantly a physician to the bodies as well as souls of his parishioners.

The late Dr. Kippis, in his additions to the life of this excellent man, says, “It sometimes happens that clergymen of the greatest wisdom, learning, and merit, are far from being good preachers. Dr. Derham is understood to have made but a very poor figure in this respect; and to | his other defects in the pulpit, was added some disadvantage with regard to his person, for he was wry-necked.” Lord Kaimes accuses Dr. Derham of not having paid sufficient attention to one subject which properly came before him in his *' Physico-theology,“namely, the natural history of animals with relation to pairing, and the care of their progeny.M. Buffon,“says he,” in many large volumes, bestows scarcely a thought on that favourite subject, and the neglect of our countrymen, Ray and Derham, is still less excusable, considering that to display the conduct of Providence was the sole purpose of their writing natural history." This defect lord Kaimes has endeavoured to supply by some ingenious observations of his own: which, however, he considers as hints merely tending to excite farther curiosity.

Dr. Derham, by Anne his wife, had several children, the eldest of whom William Derham, D. D. died president of St. John’s college, Oxford, in 1757. 1


Biog. Brit.