Folkes, Martin

, an eminent English scholar and antiquary, was the eldest son of Martin Folkes, esq. counsellor at law, and one of the benchers of Gray’s Inn, and was born in Queen-street, Lincoln’s-hm-fields, Oct. 29, 1690. From the age of nine to that of sixteen, he was under the tuition of the learned Mr. Cappel, son and successor to Mr. Lewis Cappel, Hebrew professor at Saumur, in France, which he quitted when that university was suppressed in 1695. After making great proficiency in the Greek and Roman classics under this master, Mr. Folkes was in 1707 entered of Clare-hall, Cambridge, where his progress in all branches of learning, and particularly in mathematics and philosophy, was such, that when he was scarcely more than twenty-three years of age, he was in 1714 admitted a fellow of the royal society, and two years afterwards had so distinguished himself as to be chosen one of the council. About this time he made his first communication to the society, relative to the eclipse of a fixed star in Gemini by the body of Jupiter. This was followed at various times by other papers, for which it may be sufficient to refer to the Philosophical Transactions. In Oct. 1717 he had the degree of M. A. conferred on him by the university of Cambridge, when that learned body had the honour of a visit from king George I. He was chosen a second time of the council of the royal society, December 14, 1718, and continued to be re-chosen every year till 1727; and in Jan. 1723, had the farther distinction of being appointed by their illustrious president, sir Isaac Newton, one of his vice-presidents nor were these honours unjustly bestowed for Mr. Folkes was not only indefatigable himself in observing the secret operations and astonishing objects of nature, but also studious to excite the same vigilance in others. In February 1720, he was elected a fellow of the society of antiquaries.

At the first anniversary election of the roval society after the death of sir Isaac Newton, in 1727, Mr. Folkes was competitor with sir Hans Sloane for the office of president, | find his interest was supported by a great number of members, though the choice was determined in favour of sir Hans. He was, however, again chosen of the council in 1729, and continued in it till he was advanced to the president’s chair twelve years after. In the mean time he was, in 1733, appointed one of the vice-presidents by sir Hans Sloane. In this year he set out with his whole family on a tour to Italy, and after residing a considerable time both at Rome and Florence, returned to England in September 1735. The opportunities which he had of consulting the best-furnished cabinets of Italy, enabled him to compose there an excellent “Dissertation on the weights and values of ancient coins.” This was read in the society of antiquaries, who requested that a copy of it might be registered in their books, which he promised to give, after he had revised and enlarged it; but, for whatever reason, this was never done. In the same year, however, 1736, his “Observations on the Trajan and Antonine Pillars at Rome” were read in this society, and afterwards printed in the first vol. of their “Archajologia,” where is another paper by him on the brass equestrian statue at Rome, occasioned by a small brass model of it being found near London. In April he also communicated to them “A Table of English Gold Coins, from the 18th of Edward III. when gold was first coined in England, to the present time, with their weights and intrinsic values,” which, at their desire, he printed the same year in 4to, and afterwards with additions in 1745, but far more complete, by the society, in 1763, 2 vols.

His ingenious friend, Dr. Robert Smith, then Plumian professor of mathematics in Cambridge, and afterwards master of Trinity college there, being engaged in composing “A complete system of Optics,” Mr. Folkes furnished him with several curious remarks, for vhich. he received the acknowledgments of the professor in the preface to that work, published in 1738, 4to. As he had not seen France in his travels to Italy, he made a tour to Paris in May 1739, chiefly with a view of seeing the academies there, and conversing with the learned men who do honour to that city and the republic of letters, and by whom he was received with all the testimonies of reciprocal regard. Sir Huns Sloane having, on account of his advanced age and growing infirmities, resigned the office of president of the royal society, at tlje annual election in 1741, Mr, | Folkes was unanimously chosen to fill that honourable post, which he did with the highest reputation to the society and himself, and soon after his election he presented the society with 100l. The following year he was chosen to succeed Dr. Halley, as a memher of the royal academy of sciences at Paris. The university of Oxford also, being desirous of having a gentleman of his eminence in the learned world a member of their body, conferred on him in the year 1746, the degree of LL. D. upon receiving whick be returned them a compliment in a Latin speech, admired for its propriety and elegance. He was afterwards admitted to the same degree at Cambridge.

On the death of Algernon, duke of Somerset, president of the society of antiquaries, in Feb. 1750, Mr. Folkes, then one of the vice-presidents, was immediately chosen to succeed his grace in that office, in which he was continued by the charter of incorporation of that society, Nov. 2, 1751. But he was soon disabled from presiding in person, either in that or the royal society, being seized on Sept. 26th of the same year, with a palsy, which deprived him of the use of his left side. In this unhappy situation he languished nearly three years, till a second stroke put an end to his life, June 28, 1754, and was buried near his father and mother at Hillington church, under a black marble slab, with no inscription but his name and the date, pursuant to the express direction of his last will. By his wife, Lucretia Bradshaw, an actress on the stage before he married her, he left issue two daughters.

Mr. Folkes was a man of great modesty, affability, and integrity; a friend to merit, and an ornament to literature among others whom he zealously patronized, were Edwards the ornithologist, and Norden the Danish traveller. His library was large and well-chosen, and his cabinet enriched with a collection of English coins, of great extent and value. The manuscripts of his composition, which were not a few, and upon points of great curiosity and importance, not having received from him that revision and completion which he was capable of giving them, were expressly directed by him to be suppressed, an injunction which the public has probably great reason to regret. His knowledge was very extensive, his judgment exact and accurate, and the precision of his ideas appeared from the perspicuity and conciseness of his style on abstruse and difficult topics, and especially in his speeches at the. | anniversary elections of the royal society on the delivery of the prize medals, in which he always traced out the rise and progress of the several inventions for which they were assigned as a reward. He had turned his thoughts to the study of antiquity and the polite arts with a philosophical spirit, which he hid contracted by the cultivation of the mathematical sciences in his youth. His talents appeared to greatest advantage upon the subjects of coins, weights, and measures, which had been extremely perplexed by other writers, for wan-t of a moderate share of arithmetic; in the prosecution of which he produced many arguments and proofs, which were the results of his own experiments and observations on common things, not sufficiently attended to, or seen with less distinguishing and penetrating eyes by others. He had a striking resemblance to Peiresk, particularly in some parts of his character represented by the elegant writer of that great man’s life. The generosity of his temper was no less remarkable than the politeness and vivacity of his conversation. His love of a studious and contemplative life, amidst a circle of friends of the same disposition, disinclined him in a very high degree to the business and hurry of a public one; and his only ambition was to distinguish himself by his zeal and activity for the promotion of science and literature. The sale of his library, prints, coins, &c. in 1756, lasted fifty-six days, and produced the sum of 3090l. 5s. A fine monument was erected (in 1792) to his memory in Westminster Abbey, in a window on the south side of the choir, opposite to Thynne’s monument 1


Nichols’s Eowyer, from materials oufinally drawn up by Dr. Birch.