Rooke, Sir George

, a brave naval officer, was born in Kent, 1650, of an ancient and honourable family. His father, sir William Rooke, knight, qualified him by a proper education for a liberal profession but was at last obliged to give way to his inclination to the navy. His | first station was that of a volunteer, from which his merit raised him by regular steps to be vice-admiral, and one of the council to prince George of Denmark, lord high admiral. He had the command of several expeditions in the reigns of William and Anne, in which his conduct and courage were eminently displayed. The former appeared in his behaviour on the Irish station, when he was sent as commodore with a squadron to assist in the reduction of that kingdom; in his wise and prudent management when he preserved so great a part of the Smyrna fleet, which fortune had put into the hands of the French, who suffered themselves to be deprived of an immense booty by the superior skill of this admiral; but more particularly in the taking of Gibraltar, which was a project conceived and executed in less than a week, though it has since endured sieges of not only months but years, and more than once baffled the united forces of France and Spain. Of his courage he gave abundant testimonies, but especially in burning the French ships at La Hogue, and in the battle of Malaga, where he behaved with all the resolution of a British admiral; and, as he was first in command, was first also in danger; and all times must preserve the memory of his glorious action at Vigo.

He was chosen in several parliaments the representative for Portsmouth; but, in that house, his free independent spirit did not recommend him much to ministerial favour. An attempt was made to ruin him in king William’s esteem, and to get him removed from the admiralty-board; but that prince answered plainly, “I will not; sir George Rooke served me faithfully at sea, and I will never displace him for acting as he thinks most for the service of his country in the House of Commons:” an answer worthy of a British king, as it tends to preserve the freedom of our constitution, and the liberty of parliament. In 1701 he voted for Mr. Harley to be speaker of the House of Commons, in opposition to the court; which brought on him many severe reflections from the whig party, and attempts were made to obscure all the great actions that he did. From this period, Burnet never mentions him without the utmost prejudice and partiality. In his relation of the Vigo enterprize, he says he very unwillingly steered his cc-urse that way; and, without allowing the admiral any share of the honour of the action, only says, “the ships broke the boom, and forced the port,” as if they had done it without | command, and Rooke had no concern in the matter. The taking of Gibraltar, an action in which the greatest bravery and military skill was shewn, he will have to be the effect of pure chance. Such was the prevalence of party spirit, that it obliged this brave commander to quit the service of his country, and to spend the latter part of his life in retirement. Perhaps, indeed, he was himself, in party matters, too warm and eager. His good conduct and courage, however, are unimpeachable. He was thrice married; and, by his second lady (Mrs. Luttrel) left one son.

He died Jan. 24, 1708-9, in his fifty-eighth year, and was buried in Canterbury cathedral, where a monument is erected to his memory. In his private life he was a good husband, and a kind master, lived hospitably towards his neighbours, and left behind him a moderate fortune; so moderate, that when he came to make his will it surprized those who were present; but sir George assigned the reason in a few words, “I do not leave much,” said he, i( but what I leave was honestly gotten it never cost a sailor a tear, or the nation a farthing." 1 Rooke (Lawrence), an English astronomer and geometrician, was born at Deptford, in Kent, 1623, and educated at Eton school, whence he removed to King’s college, Cambridge, in 1639. After taking the degree of M. A. in 1647, he retired for some time into the country, but in 1650 went to Oxford, and settled in Wadham college, that he might associate with Dr. Wilkins, and Mr. Seth Ward the astronomy professor; and also accompany Mr. Boyle in his chemical operations. After the death of Mr. Foster he was chosen astronomy professor in Gresham college, London, in 1652. He made some observations upon the comet at Oxford, which appeared in the month of December that year; which were printed by Mr. Seth Ward the year following. And, in 1655, Dr. Wallis publishing his treatise on conic sections, he dedicated that work to those two gentlemen. In 1657 Mr. Rooke was permitted to exchange the astronomy professorship for that of geometry. This step might seem strange, as astronomy still continued to be his favourite study; but it was thought to have been from the convenience of the lodgings, which opened behind the reading hall, and therefore were proper for the reception of those gentlemen after the lectures, who, in 1660, | laid the foundation of the royal society. Most of those learned men who had been accustomed to assemble with him at Oxford, coining to London, joined with other philosophical gentlemen, and usually met at Gresham college to hear Mr. Rooke’s iectwes, and afterwards withdrew into his apartment; till their meetings were interrupted by the quartering of soldiers in the college in 1658. And after the royal society came to be formed into a regular body, Mr. Rooke was very zealous and serviceable in promoting that great and useful institution; though he did not live till it received its establishment by the royal charter.

The marquis of Dorchester, a patron of learning, and learned himself, used to entertain Mr. Rooke at his seat at Ilighgate after the restoration, and bring him every Wednesday in his coach to the Royal Society, which then met on that day of the week at Gresham college. But the last time Mr. Rooke was at Highgate, he walked from thence; and it being in the summer, he overheated himself, and taking cold after it, he was thrown into a fever, which cost him his life. He died at his apartments at Gresham college, June 27, 1662, in the fortieth year of his age. It was reckoned very unfortunate that his death happened the very night that he had for some years expected to finish his accurate observations on the satellites of Jupiter. When, he found his illness prevented him from making that observation, Dr. Pope says, he sent to the Society his request, that some other person, properly qualified, might be appointed for that purpose; so intent was he to the last onmaking those curious and useful discoveries, in which he had been so long engaged. He made a nuncupatory will, leaving what he had to Dr. Ward, the,n lately made bishop of Exeter: whom he permitted to receive what was due upon bond, if the debtors offered payment willingly, otherwise he would not have the bonds put in suit: “for,” said he, “as I never was in law, nor had any contention with, any man, in my life-time, neither would I be so after my death.

Few persons have left behind them a more agreeable character than Mr. Rooke, from every person that was acquainted with him, or with his qualifications; and in nothing more than for his veracity: for what he asserted positively, might be fully relied on: but if his opinion was asked concerning any thing that was dubious, his usual answer was, “I have no opinion.” Mr. Hook has given this | copious, though concise character of him: “I never was acquainted with any person who knew more, and spoke less, being indeed eminent for the knowledge and improvement of astronomy.” Dr. Wren and Dr. Seth Ward describe him as a man of profound judgment, a vast comprehension, prodigious memory, and solid experience. His skill in the mathematics was reverenced by all the lovers of those studies, and his perfection in many other sorts of learning deserves no less admiration; but above all, as another writer characterizes him, his extensive knowledge had a right influence on the temper of his mind, which had all the humility, calmness, strength, and sincerity of a sound philosopher. For more particulars of his character we may refer to Dr. Isaac Barrow’s oration at Gresham college. The only pieces which were published from his papers consist of “Observationes in Cometam, qui mense Decembri anno 1652 apparuit” printed by Dr. Seth Ward in his “Lectures on Comets,1653, 4to. “Directions for Seamen going to the East and West Indies,” which were drawn up at the appointment of the Royal Society, and inserted in their Transactions for 1665; “A Method for observing the Eclipses of the Moon,” in the Philos. Trans, for Feb. 1666. “A Discourse concerning the Observations of the Eclipses of the Satellites of Jupiter,” in the History of the Royal Society, p. 183; and “An Account of an Experiment made with Oil in a long Tube,” read to the Royal Society, April 23, 1662. By this experiment it was found, that the oil sunk when the sun shone out, and rose when he was clouded; the proportions of which are set down in the account. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. II. Pope’s Life of SulLward, p. 110. Ward’s Gresham —Hutton’s Dict.