Oldenburg, Henry

, who wrote his name sometimes Grubendol, reversing the letters, was a learned German, and born in 1626, in the duchy of Bremen, in the Lower Saxony, being descended from the counts of Oldenburg, in Westphalia, whence his name. During the long English parliament in Charles I.‘s time, he was appointed consul for his countrymen, in which post he continued at London after the usurpation of Cromwell; but, being discharged from that employment, he was made tutor to the lord Henry Obrien, an Irish nobleman, whom he attended to the university of Oxford, and in 1656 entered himself a student, chiefly for the sake of admission to the Bodleian library. He was afterwards tutor to William lord Cavendish, and was acquainted with Milton, among whose “Epistolae familiares,” are four letters to Oldenburg. During his residence at Oxford he became also acquainted with the members of that little association which gave birth to the royal society; and, upon the foundation of this latter, he was elected fellow; and, when the society found it necessary to have two secretaries, he was chosen assistant to Dr. Wilkins. He applied himself with | extraordinary diligence to the business of this office, and began the publication of the “Philosophical Transactions;” with No. 1. in 1664. In order to discharge this task with greater credit to himself and the society, he held a correspondence with more than seventy learned persons, and others, upon a vast variety of subjects, in different parts of the world. This fatigue would have been insupportable, had he not, as he told Dr. Lister, answered every letter the moment he received it, a rule which cannot be too warmly recommended, whether in cases of business, literature, or pleasure. Among Oldenburg’s correspondents may be mentioned the celebrated Robert Boyle, with whom he had a very intimate friendship; and he translated several of that gentleman’s works into Latin.*


It appears that in 1667 he was taken up on suspicion, and imprisoned in the Tower. In a letter dated London, Sept. 7, of that year, he writes thus “I was so stifled by the prisonair, that as soon as 1 had my enlargement from the Tower, I widen’d it, and took it from London into the Contry, to fann myselfe for some days in the good air of Craford in Kent. Being now returned, and having recovered to my stomach, which I had in a manner quite lost, I intend, if God will, to fall to my old trade, if I have any support to follow it. My late misfortune, I feare, will much prejudice me many persons unacquainted with me, and hearing me to be a stranger, being apt to derive a suspicion upon me. Not a few came to the Tower, merely to enquire after my crime, and to see the warrant; in which when they found, that it was for dangerous desseios and practices, they spied it over London, and made others have nogood opinion of me. Incarcera audacter, semper aliquid hceret. Before I went into the contry, I waited on my lord Arlington, kissing the rod. I hope, I shall live fully to satisfy his majesty, and all honest Englishmen, of my integrity, and of my real I zeal spend the remainder of my life in doing faithfull service to the nation, to the very utmost of my abilities. I have learned, during this commitment, to know my reall friends. God Almighty blesse them, and enable me to convince them all of my gratitude. By his other correspondence, a part of which is printed in the ” General Dietionary including —Bayle," we learn that he was always poor, and ill rewarded for his services.

About 1674 he was drawn into a dispute with Mr. Robert Hooke; who complained, that the secretary had not done him justice in the “Transactions,” with respect to the invention of the spiral spring for pocket-watches. The contest was carried on with great warmth on both sides for two years, when it was determined, much to Oldenburg’s honour, by a delaration of the council of the royal society, Nov. 20, 1676, in these words: “Whereas the publisher of the Philosophical Transactions hath made complaint to the council of the royal society, of some passages in a late book of Mr. Hooke, entitled ‘ Lampas,’ c. and printed by the printer of the said society, reflecting on the integrity and faithfulness of the said publisher, | in his management of the intelligence of the said society this council had thought fit to declare, in the behalf of the publisher aforesaid, that they knew nothing of the publication of the said book; and farther, that the said publisher hath carried himself faithfully and honestly in the management of the intelligence of the royal society, and given no just cause for such reflections.

Mr. Oldenburg continued to publish the Transactions as before, to No. CXXXVI, June 25, 1677, after which the publication was discontinued till Jan. following; then resumed by his successor in the secretary’s office, Mr. Nehemiah Grew, who carried it on till Feb. 1678. Our author dying at his house at Charlton, near Greenwich, in Kent, in August that year, was interred there. Besides the works already mentioned, he translated into English, 1. “The Prodromus to a Dissertation by Nich. Steno, concerning Solids naturally contained within Solids,” &C.1671, 8vo. 2. “A genuine explication of the Book of Revelations,’ 7 &c. 1671, 8vo, written by A. B. Piganius.” The Life of the Duchess of Mazarine," in 8vo, translated from the French. He left a son, named Rupert, from prince Rupert his godfather, and a daughter, named Sophia, by his wife, who was daughter and sole heir to the famous John Dury, a Scotch divine. 1


Gen. Dict. Martin’s Biog. Phil. —Ath. Ox. vol. II. Ward’s Gresham Professors.