Martin, Benjamin

, an eminent optician, was born at Worplesdon, in Surrey, in 1704, and began life as a plough-boy at Broad-street, a hamlet belonging to that parish. By some means, however, he contrived to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, so as to be soon enabled to teach them to others. For some time he continued to assist in the farming business, but, as our authority states, “finding that he became a poor husbandman in proportion as he grew a learned one, he prudently forsook what indeed he had no great inclination for,” and having a strong inclination to mathematics and philosophical speculations, now entered upon such a course of reading and study as in | some measure supplied the want of a learned education. The historian of Surrey says that he first taught reading and writing at Guildford. It was probably some time after this that a legacy of five hundred pounds bequeathed to him by a relation encouraged his laudable ambition, and after purchasing books, instruments, &c. and acquiring some knowledge of the languages, we find him, in 1735, settled at Chichester, where he taught mathematics, and performed courses of experimental philosophy. At this time he published his first work, “The Philosophical Grammar; being a view of the present state of experimental physiology, or naturaf philosophy, &c.London, 8vo. When he came up to London we have not been able to discover, but after settling there he read lectures on experimental philosophy for many years, and carried on a very extensive trade as an optician and globe-maker in Fleet-street, till the growing infirmities of old age compelled him to withdraw from the active part of business. Trusting too fatally to what he thought the integrity of others, he unfortunately, though with a capital more than sufficient to pay all his debts, became a bankrupt. The unhappy old man, in a moment of desperation from this unexpected stroke, attempted to destroy himself; and the wound, though not immediately mortal, hastened his death, which happened Feb. 9th, 1782, at seventy-eight years of age.

He had a valuable collection of fossils and curiosities of every species, which after his death were almost given away by public auction. He was indefatigable as an artist, and as a writer he had a very happy method of explaining his subject, and wrote with clearness, and even considerable elegance. He was chiefly eminent in the science of optics; but he was well skilled in the whole circle of the mathematical and philosophical sciences, and wrote useful books on every one of them; though he was not distinguished by any remarkable inventions or discoveries of his own. His publications were very numerous, and generally useful some of the principal of them were as follow 1 “The Philosophical Grammar,” already mentioned. 2. “A new, complete, and universal system or body of Decimal Arithmetic,1735, 8vo. 3. “The young student’s Memorial Book, or Patent Library,1735, 8vo. 4. “Description and use of both the Globes, the Armillary Sphere and Orrery,1736, 2 vols, 8vo. 5. “Elements of Geometry,| 1739, 8vo. 6. “Memoirs of the Academy of Paris,1740, 5 vols. 8vo. 7. “Panegyric of the Newtonian Philosophy,1754. 8. “On the new construction of the Globes,1755. 9. “System of the Newtonian Philosophy,1759, 3 vols. 8vo. 10. “New Elements of Optics,1759. 11. “Mathematical Institutions, viz. arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and fluxions,1759. 12. “Natural History of England, with a map of each county,1759, 2 vols. 8vo. 13. “Philology and Philosophical Geography,1759. 14. “Mathematical Institutions,1764, 2 vols. 15. “Biographia Philosophica, or Lives of Philosophers,1764, 8vo. 16. “Introduction to the Newtonian Philosophy,1765. 17. “Institutions of Astronomical Calculations,” two parts, 1765. 18. “Description and use of the Air Pump,1766. 19. “Description of the Torricellian Barometer,1766. 20. “Appendix to the Description and Use of the Globes,1766. 21. “Philosophia Britannica,1778, 3 vols. 22. “Philosophical Magazine.” This when complete consists of 14 volumes, but there are parts sold separately, as “The Miscellaneous Correspondence,” 4 vols. It was discontinued for want of encouragement, which, however, it appears to have deserved, as it afforded a very correct state of scientific knowledge at that time. 1

1 Manning and Bray’s Hist of Surrey. Gt-nt. Mag. for 1785,where is a veryfine portrait of Mr. Martm. I’reseut State of the Republic of Letters, rci. XVI. p. 16-t. Huttou’s Dictionary.