Rutherforth, Thomas

, an ingenious philosopher and divine, the son of the rev. Thomas Rutherforth, rector of Papworth Everard, in the county of Cambridge, who had made large collections for an history of that county, was born October 13, 1712. He was entered of St. John’s college, Cambridge, about 1725, and took his degrees of A. B. 1729, and A.M. 1733. He was then chosen fellow, and proceeded bachelor of divinity in 1740. Two years after he was chosen fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1745, on being appointed professor of divinity, took his doctor’s degree, and was appointed chaplain to his royal highness the prince of Wales. In the church, he was promoted to be rector of Barrow in Suffolk, of Shenfield in Essex, and of Barley in Hertfordshire, and archdeacon of Essex. He communicated to the Gentleman’s Society at Spalding a curious correction of Plutarch’s description of the instrument used to renew the vestal fire, as relating to the triangle with which the instrument was formed. It was nothing but a concave speculum, whose principal focus which collected the rays is not in the centre of concavity, but at the distance of half a diameter from its surface: but some of the ancients thought otherwise, as appears from Prop. 31 of Euclid’s il Catoptrics;“and, though this piece has been thought spurious, and this error a proof of it, the sophist and Plutarch might easily know as little of mathematics. He published” An Essay on the nature and oblirgations of Virtue,“1744, 8vo, which Mr. Maurice Johnson, of Spalding, in a letter to Dr. Birch, calls” an useful, ingenious, and learned piece, wherein the noble author of the Characteristics, and all other authors ancient and modern, are, as to their notions and dogmata, duly, candidly, and in a gentleman-like manner, considered, and fully, to my satisfaction, answered as becomes a Christian divine. If you have not yet read that amiable work, I must (notwithstanding, as we have been told by some, whom he answers in his Xlth and last chapters, do not so much approve it) not forbear recommending it to your perusal.“”Two Sermons preached at Cambridge,“1747, 8vo.A System of Natural Philosophy, Cambridge,“1748, 2 vols. 4to.A Letter to Dr. Middleton in defence of bishop | Sherlock on Prophecy,“1750, 8vo.A Discourse on Miracles,“1751, 8vo.” “Institutes of Natural Law,1754, 2 vols. 8vo. “A Charge to the Clergy of Essex,1753, 4to, reprinted with three others in 1763, 8vo. “Two Letters to Dr. Kennicott,1761 and 1762. “A Vindication of the Right of Protestant Churches to require the Clergy to subscribe to an established Confession of Faith and Doctrines, in a Charge delivered at a Visitation, July 1766,Cambridge, 1766, 8vo. A second, the same year. “A Letter to Archdeacon Blackburn,1767, 8vo, on the same subject. He died Oct. 5, 1771, aged fifty-nine, having married a sister of the late sir Anthony Thomas Abdy, bart of Albins, in Essex, by whom he had two sons, one of whom survived him. Dr. llutherforth was interred in the church at Barley, where, on his monument, it is said, that “he was no less eminent for his piety and integrity than his extensive learning; and filled every public station in which he was placed with general approbation. In private life, his behaviour was truly amiable. He was esteemed, beloved, and honoured by his family and friends; a,nd his death was sincerely lamented by all who ever heard of his well-deserved character.1


Nichols’s Bowyer. —Hutton’s Dictionary.