Greaves, John

, an eminent mathematician and antiquary, was eldest son of John Greaves, rector of Colmore, near Alresford, in Hampshire, where, his son was born in 1602, and probably instructed in grammar learning by his father, who was the most celebrated school-master in that country. At fi/teen years of age he was sent to Baliol college, in Oxford, where he proceeded B. A. July 6, 1621. -Three years after, his superiority in classical learning procured him the first place of five in an election to a fellowship of Merton-college. On June 25, 1628, he commenced M. A. and, having completed his fellowship, was more at liberty to pursue the bent of his inclination, | which leading him chiefly to oriental learning and the mathematics, he quickly distinguished himself in each of these studies; and his eminent skill in the latter procured him the professorship of geometry in Gresham college, which he obtained February 22^ 1630.

At this time he had not only read the writings of Copernicus, Regiomoritanus, Purbach, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler, with other celebrated astronomers of that and the preceding age, but had made 1 the ancient Greek, Arabian, and Persian authors familiar to him, having before gained an accurate skill in the oriental languages; but the acquisitions he had already made serving to create a thirst for more, he determined to travel for farther improvement. Accordingly he went to Holland in 1635, and having attended for some time the lectures of Goliusj the learned professor of Arabic at Leyden, he proceeded to Paris, where he conversed with the celebrated Claudius Hardy, about the Persian language; but finding very scanty aid in that country, he continued his journey to Rome, in order to view the antiquities of that cily. He also visited other parts of Italy; and before his departure, meeting with the earl of Arundel, was offered 200l. a year to live with his lordship, and attend him as a companion in his travels to Greece; the earl also promising every other act of friendship that might lie in his power. A proposal so advantageous would have been eagerly accepted by Mr. Greaves, but he had now projected a voyage to Egypt, and was About to return to England, in order to furnish himself with every thing proper to complete the execution of his design.

Immediately after his return, he acquainted archbishop. Laud, who was his liberal patron, with his intentions, and, being encouraged by his grace, set about making preparations for it. His primary view was to measure the pyramids with all proper exactness, and also to make astronomical and geographical observations, as opportunities offered, for the improvement of those sciences. A large apparatus of proper mathematical instruments was consequently to be provided; and, as the expence of purchasing these would be considerable, he applied for assistance to the city of London, but mefwith an absolute denial. This he very much resented, and in relating the generosity of his brothers upon his own money falling short, he observes, 44 That they had strained their own occasions, to enable him, in despite of the city, to go on with his designs.* 1 | He had been greatly disappointed in his hopes of meeting with curious books in Italy he therefore proposed to make that another principal part of his business and to compass it in the easiest manner, he bought several books before his departure, in order to exchange them with others in the east. Besides his brothers, he had probably some help from Laud, from whom he received a general discretionary commission to purchase for him Arabic and other Mss. and likewise such coins and medals as he could procure. Laud also gave him a letter of recommendation to sir Peter Wyche, the English ambassador at Constantinople.

Thus furnished, he embarked in the river Thames for Leghorn, June 1637, in company with his particular friend Mr. Edward Pococke, whom he had earnestly solicited to that voyage*. After a short stay in Italy, he arrived at Constantinople before Michaelmas. Here he met with a kind reception from sir Peter Wyche, and became acquainted with the venerable Cyril Lucaris, the Greek patriarch, by whom he was much assisted in purchasing Greek Mss., and who promised to recommend him to the monks of Mount Athps, where he would have the liberty of entering into all the libraries, and of collecting a catalogue of such books as either were not printed, or else, by the help of some there, might be more correctly published. These, by dispensing with the anathemas which former patriarchs had laid upon all Greek libraries, to preserve the books from the Latins, Cyril


Our author’s generosity on this occasion deserves particular mention. In a letter to this friend, Dec. 23, 1636, he writes thus: "I shall desire your favour in sending up to me, by my brother Thomas, Ulug Beig’s astronomical tables, of which I purpose to make this use. The next week I will shew them to my lord’s grace [Laud] and highly commend your care in procaring those tables, being the most accurate that ever were extant; then will I discover my intention of having them printed and dedicated to his grace; but because I presume that thr are many things which in these parts cannot perfectly be understood, I shall acquaint my lord with my desire of taking a journey into those countries, far the more emendate edition of them; afterwards, by de grees, fall down upon the business of the consulship, and how honourable a thing it would be if you were sent our a second time, as Golius, in the Low Countries, was by the States, after he had been once there before. If my lord should be pleased to resolve and compass the business, I shall like it well; if not, 1 shall procure 300l. for you and myself, besides getting a dispensation for the allowances of our places in our absence, and by God’s blessing, in three years dispatch the whole journey. It shallo hard, but I will too get some citizen in, as a benefactor to the design; if not, 300l. of mine, whereof I give you the half, together with the return of our stipends, will, in a plentiful manner, if I be not deceived, in Turkey maintain us.

| proposed to present to archbishop Laud, for the better prosecution of his designs in the edition of Greek authors; but all this was frustrated by the death of that patriarch, who was barbarously strangled June 1638, by express command of the grand signior, on pretence of holding a correspondence with the emperor of Muscovy.

Nor ‘vas this the only loss which our traveller sustained by Cyril’s death; for having procured out of an ignorant monastery which depended on the patriarch, fourteen good Mss. of the fathers, he was forced privately to restore the books and lose the money, to avoid a worse inconvenience. Thus Constantinople was no longer agreeable to him, and the less so, because he had not been able to perfect himself in the Arabic tongue for want of sufficient masters, which be hoped to have found there. Tn these circumstances, parting with his fellow-traveller Pococke, he embraced the opportunity then offered of passing in company with the annual Turkish fleet to Alexandria, where, having in his way touched at Rhodes, he arrived before the end of September 1638. This was the boundary of his intended progress. The country afforded a large field for the exercise of his curious and inquisitive genius; and he omitted no opportunity of remarking whatever the heavens, earth, or subterraneous parts, offered, that seemed any way useful and worthy of notice; but, in his astronomical observations, he was too often interrupted by the rains, which, contrary to the received opinion, he found to be frequent and violent, especially in the middle of winter. He was also much disappointed here in his expectations of purchasing books, finding very few of these, and no learned men. But the principal purpose of his coming here being to take an accurate survey of the pyramids, he went twice to the deserts near Grand Cairo, where they stand; and having exeputed his undertaking entirely to his satisfaction, embarked at Alexandria in April 1639. Arriving in two months at Leghorn, he made the tour of Italy a second time, in order to examine more accurately the true state of the Roman weights and measures, as he was now furnished with proper instruments for that purpose, made by the best hands.

From Leghorn he proceeded to Florence, where he was received with particular marks of esteem by the grand duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand II. to whom he had inscribed a Latin poem from Alexandria, in which he exhorted that | prince to clear those seas of pirates, with whom they were extremely infested. He obtained, likewise, admittance into the Medicean library, which had been denied to him as a stranger when he was here in his former tour. ’ From Florence he went to Rome, and took most exact measurements of all the ancient remains of that city and neighbourhood; after which he returned to Leghorn, where taking his passage in a vessel called the Golden Fleece, at the end of March, he arrived at London before Midsummer 1640, with a curious collection of Arabic, Persic, anci Greek Mss. together with a great number of gems, coins, and other valuable antiquities, having spent full three years in this agreeable tour.

But upon his return, the ensuing national troubles proved greatly detrimental to his private affairs, and he suffered much for his loyalty to the king and his gratitude to Laud. After a short stay at Gresham college, which was no longer a place of safety for him, he went to Oxford, and set about digesting his papers, and preparing such of them as might be most useful for the press. In this business he was assisted by archbishop Usher, to whom he had been long known; and here he drew a map of Lesser Asia at his grace’s request, who was writing his dissertation of that country, printed in 1641.

All this while he gave himself no concern about his Gresham lecture, from which the usurping powers removed him on November 15, 1643. But this loss had been more than abundantly compensated by the Savilian professorship of astronomy, to which he was chosen the day before, in the room of Dr. Bainbridge, lately deceased; and he had a dispensation from the king, to hold his fellowship at Puerton-college, because the stipend was much impaired by means of the civil wars. The lectures being also impracticable on the same account, he was at full leisure to continue his attention to his papers; and accordingly we find that he had made considerable progress by September the following year; some particulars of which may be seen in a letter of that date to archbishop Usher. Among other things, it appears that he had made several extracts from them concerning the true length of the year; and happening, in 1645, to fall into discourse with some persons of figure at the court then at Oxford, with whom he much associated, about amending the Kalendar, he proposed a method of doing it by omitting the intercalary day in the | leap-year for forty years, and to render it conformable to the Gregorians. He drew up a scheme for that purpose, which was approved by the king and council; but the state of the times would not permit the execution of it. The publication of his “Pyramidographia,” and the “Description of the Roman Foot and Denarius,” employed him the two subsequent years: he determined to begin with these, as they contained the fruit of his labours in the primary view of his travels, and he was not in a condition to proceed any farther at present.

Hitherto he had been able, in a considerable degree, to surmount his difficulties, there being still left, some members in the house of commons who had a regard for learning, among whom Selden made the greatest figure. That gentleman was burgess for the university of Oxford; and, being well known to our author before his travels, he dedicated his “Roman Foot” to him, under the character of his noble and learned friend: and his friendship was very serviceable to Greaves, in a prosecution in the parliament, in 1647, occasioned by his executorship to Dr. Bainbridge. This trust had so involved him in law-suits as entirely to frustrate his design of going to Leyden to consult some Persian Mss. necessary for publishing some treatises in that language. Upon the arrival of the parliamentary commissioners at Oxford, several complaints were made to them against him on the same account; which being sent by them to the committee of the house of commons, our author, probably by the interest of Selden (who was a member of that committee), was there acquitted, after which he applied to the court of aldermen and the committee of Camden-house for restitution. But though he evaded this farther difficulty by the assistance of some powerful friends, yet this respite was but short; however,

* The same method had been pro- Greaves is in the Phil. Trans. No. 257. posed to pope Gregory, who rejected } These are the most genrally-seit, as Mr. Greaves says, that he migbt ful parts of his -works. Th latter 19

have the honour of doing it at once, ranked among the classics, and is

nnd thereby of calling that year Annus nearly allied to the former; the’exactGregorianus, which our author did not ness of which is put beyond all doubt

doubt might justly be called Annus in a piece of sir Isaac Newton, pubConfusionis, as the ancients called that lished along with the most correct ediyear in which Julius Caesar corrected tions of it, in 1737, 8vo. Mr. Greaves

the calendar, by a subtraction of days, took care to preserve, to the latest

after the same manner. But we have times, the present standard of the mealately seen this method of doing it at sures used in all nations, by Ukig

once put in practice, without any ill the dimensions of the inside of the

consequences at all. This piece of Mr. largest pyramid with the English fowl. | he made use of that time in publishing a piece begun by Dr. Bainbridge, and completed by himself, printed at Oxford in 1648, under the title of “Johannis Bainbriggii Canicularia, &c.” He dedicated this piece to doctor (afterwards sir George) Ent, with whom he had commenced an acquaintance at Paciua, in Italy; and that gentleman gave many proofs of his sincere friendship to our author, as well as to Dr. Pococke, in these times.

But the tyrannical violence of the parliamentary visitors was now above all restraint, and a fresh charge was drawn up against Greaves. Dr. Walter Pope informs us, that, considering the violence of the visitors, Greaves saw it would be of no service to him to make any defence; and, finding it impossible to keep his professorship, he made it his business to procure an able and worthy person to succeed him. By the advice of Dr. Charles Scarborough the physician, having pitched upon Mr. Seth Ward, he opened the matter to that gentleman, whom he soon met with there; and at the same time proposed a method of compassing it, by which Ward not only obtained the place, but the full arrears of the stipend, amounting to 500l. due to Greaves, and allowed him a considerable part of his salary. The murder of the king, which happened soon after, was a shock to Greaves, and lamented by him in pathetic terms, in a letter to Dr. Pococke: “O my good friend, my good friend, never was sorrow like our sorrow; excuse me now, if I am not able to write to you, and to answer your questions. O Lord God, avert this great sin and thy judgments from this nation.” However, he bore up against his own injuries with admirable fortitude; and, fixing his residence in London, he married, and, living upon his patrimonial estate, went on as before, and produced some other curious Arabic and Persic treatises, translated by him with notes, every year. Besides which, he had prepared several others for the public view, and was meditating more when he was seized by a fatal disorder, which put a period to his life, Octobers, 1652, before he was full fifty years of age. He was interred in the church of St. Bennet Sherehog, in London. His loss was much lamented by his friends, to whom he was particularly endeared by joining the gentleman to the scholar. He was endowed with great firmness of mind, steadiness in friendship, and ardent zeal in the interest which he espoused, though, as he declares himself, not at all inclined to | contenlion. He was highly esteemed by the learned in foreign parts, with many of whom he corresponded. Nor was he less valued at home by all who were judges of his great worth and abilities. He had no issue by his wife, to whom he bequeathed his estate for her life; and having left his cabinet of coins to his friend sir John Marsham, author of the “Canon Chronicus,” he appointed the eldest of his three younger brothers (Dr. Nicolas Greaves), his executor, who by will bestowed our author’s astronomical instruments on the Savilian library at Oxford, where they are reposited, together with several of his papers; but many others were sold by his widow to a bookseller, and lost or dispersed.

Besides his papers in the Philosophical Transactions, his works printed separately are, 1. “Pyramidologia; or a description of the Pyramids in Egypt,” Lond. 1646, 8vo. 3. “A Discourse of the Roman Foot and Denarius,” ibid. 1647, 8vo. 3. “Elementa Linguae Persicae,” ibid. 1649, 4to. 4. “Epochae celebriores astronomis, historicis, chronologis Chataiorum, Syro-grsecorum, Arabum, Persarum, &c. usitatae, ex traditione Ulug Beigi Arab, et Lat.” ibid. 1650, 4to. 5. “Chorasmiae et Mawaralnabrae, hoc est, regionum extra fluvium Oxum, descriptio,” ibid. 1650, 4to. 6. “Astronomicae quaedam, ex traditione Shah Cholgii Persae, una cum hypothesibus planetarum,” &c. ibid. 1652, 4to. In 1737 Dr. Birch published the “Miscellaneous Works” of our author, 2 vols. 8vo, containing some of the above, with additions, and a life.

Mr. Greaves had three brothers, Nicholas, Thomas, and Edward, all men of distinguished learning. Dr. Nicholas Greaves was a commoner of St. Mary’s Hall, in Oxford, whence in 1627 he was elected fellow of All-Souls college. In 1640 he was proctor of that university. November 1st 1642 he took the degree of B. D. and July 6th the year following, that of D. D. He was dean of Dromore in Ireland. Dr. Thomas Greaves was admitted a scholar of Corpus Christi college in Oxford March 15th, 1627, and chosen fellow thereof in 1636, and deputy reader of the Arabic during the absence of Mr. Edward Pocock in 1637. He took the degree of B. D. October 22, 1641, and was rector of Dunsby in Lincolnshire during the times preceding the Restoration, and of another living near London. October I Oth, 1661, he had the degree of D. D. conferred upon him, and a prebend in the church of | Peterborough in 1666, being then rector of Benefield in Northamptonshire, “which benefice he resigned some years before his death through trouble from his parishioners, who, because of his slowness of speech and bad utterance, held him insufficient for it, notwithstanding he was a man of great learning.” In the latter part of his life he retired to Weldon in Northamptonshire, where he had purchased an estate, and died there May 22, 1676, in the sixty-fifth year of his age, and was interred in the chancel of the church there. His writings are, “De Linguae Arabicae militate et proestantia, oratio Oxonii habita 19 Julii 1637,Oxford, 1637, 4to; “Observationes qusedam in Persicam Pentateuchi versionem,” printed in the sixth volume of the Polyglot Bible; “Annotationes quaedam in Persicatn interpretationem Evangeliorum,” printed in the same volume. These annotations were translated into Latin by Mr. Samuel Clarke. It appears likewise, by a letter of his to the celebrated nonconformist Baxter, that he had made considerable progress in a refutation of Mahometanism from the Alcoran, upon a plan that was likely to have been useful in opening the eyes of the Mahometans to the impostures of their founder. He corresponded much with the learned men of his time, particularly Selden, and Wheelocke, the Arabic professor at Cambridge. Dr. Edward Greaves, the youngest brother of Mr. John Greaves, was born at or near Croydon in Surrey, and admitted probationer fellow of All-Souls college in Oxford in 1634; and studying physic, took the degree of doctor of that faculty July 8, 1641, in which year and afterwards he practised with good success about Oxford. In 1643 he was elected superior lecturer of physic in Merton college, a chair founded by Dr. Thomas Linacre. Upon the declining of the king’s cause he retired to London, and practised there, and sometimes at Bath. In March 1652 he was examined for the first time before the college of physicians at London, and October 1, 1657, was elected fellow. After the Restoration he was appointed physician in ordinary to king Charles II. and was created a baronet. Mr. Wood styles him a pretended baronet; but we find that he takes this title in his oration before the college of physicians; and in the sixth edition of Guillim’s Heraldry are his arms in that rank. He died at his house in Covent Garden, November 11, 1680, and was interred in the parish church there. He wrote and published Morbus | Epideiw’cus, ann. 1643; or, the New Disease, with signs, causes, remedies,“&c. Oxford, 1643, 4to, written upon occasion of a disease called” Morbus Campestris,“which raged in Oxford while the king and court were there.” Oratio habita in >dibus Collegii Medicorum Londinensium, 25 July, 1661, die Hurveii memoriae dicato," Lond. 1667, 4to. 1


Smith’s Vite quorundam erudit. virorum. —Ath. Ox. vol. It. Gen. Dict. Biog. Brit. Usher’s Life and Letters. Life by Dr, Birch. Ward’s Gresharn Professors.