Stone, Edmund

, an eminent, though self-taught mathematician, was a native of Scotland, and son of a gardener in the service of the duke of Argyle. Neither the time nor place of his birth is exactly known, but from a ms memorandum in our possession it appears that he died in March or April 1768. The chief account of him that is extant is contained in a letter written by the celebrated chevalier Ramsay to father Castel, a Jesuit at Paris, and published in the Journal de Trevoux, p. 109. From this it appears, that when he was about eighteen years of age, his singular talents were discovered accidentally by the duke of Argyle, who found that he had been reading Newton’s Principia. The duke was surprised, entered into | conversation with him, and was astonished at the force, accuracy, and candour of his answers. The instructions he had received amounted to no more than having been taught to read by a servant of the duke’s, about ten years before. “I first learned to read,” said Stone; “the masons were then at work upon your house: I went near them one day, and I saw that the architect used a rule and compasses, and that he made calculations. I inquired what might be the use of these things; and I was informed, that there was a science called arithmetic: I purchased a book of arithmetic, and I learned it. I was told there was another science called geometry: I bought the books, and I learned geometry. By reading I found that there were good books in these two sciences in Latin: I bought a dictionary, and 1 learnt Latin. I understood that there were good books of the same kind in French: I bought a dictionary, and I learned French. And this, my lord, is what I have done. It seems to me that we may learn every thing, when we know the twenty-four letters of the aipiuibet.” Delighted with this account, the duke drew him from obscurity, and placed him in a situation which enabled him to pursue his favourite objects. Stone was author and translator of several useful works 1 “A new Mathematical Dictionary, 1726, 8vo. 2.Fluxions,“1730, 8vo. The direct method is a translation of L‘ Hospital’s Analyse des infiniment petits, from the French; and the inverse method was supplied by Stone himself. 3.” The Elements of Euclid," 1731, 2 vols. 8vo. This is a neat and useful edition of the Elements of Euclid, with an account of the life and writings of that mathematician, and a defence of his elements against modern objectors. 4. ’ A paper in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. xli. p. 218, containing an account of two species of lines of the third order, not mentioned by sir Isaac Newton, or Mr. Sterling; and some other small productions.

He is described by Ramsay as a man of the utmost modesty and simplicity, animated by a pure and disinterested love of science. He discovered sometimes, by methodhis own, truths which others had discovered before him. On these occasions he was charmed to find that he was not the first inventor, but -that others had made a reater progress than he supposed.

To this account, as given in the last edition of this work, we may add that when Stone had obtained the duke | of Argyle’s patronage, he probably was enabled to come to London, as we find he was chosen a fellow of the Royal Society in 1725, a year before the publication of his “Mathematical Dictionary,” and his subsequent works were all published in London: but in what capacity he lived or how supported, we know not. Io 1742 or 1743 his name was withdrawn from the list of the Royal Society. In 1758 he published “The Construction and Principal Uses of Mathematical Instruments, translated from the French of M. Bion, chief instrument -maker to the French king. To which are added, the construction and uses of such instruments as are omitted by M. Bion, particularly of those invented or improved by the English. By Edmund Stone,” folio. Here he omits the title of F. R S. which appeared to his former publications. From the introductory part of an account of this work in the Critical Review, it would appear that he was known to the writer of that article, and that he was now old and neglected. “Since the commencement of our periodical labours,” says the critic, “none of Mr. Stone’s works have passed through our hands. It is with pleasure we now behold this ingenious gentleman breaking a silence, for the service of the publick, which we were ready to attribute to his sense of its ingratitude. There is hardly a person the least tinctured with letters in the British dominions, who is unacquainted with the extraordinary merit of our author. Untutored, and self-taught, he ascended from the grossest ignorance, by mere dint of genius, to the sublimest paths of geometry. His abilities are universally acknowledged, his reputation unblemished, his services to the public uncontested, and yet he lives to an advanced age unrewarded, except by a mean employment that reflects dishonour on the donors.” What this employment was, we know not, but the work itself is said to be a second edition, and that the first had a rapid sale. In 1767, was published a pamphlet entitled “Some reflections on the the uncertainty of many astronomical and geographical positions, with regard to the figure and magnitude of the earth, &c. &c. By Edmund Stone,” 8vo. We have not seen this production, but from the account given of it in the Monthly Review, it must have been written either by a Mr. Edmund Stone of far inferior abilities and good sense to our author, or by our author in his dotage. 1


Hutton’s Dict. Crit.—Rev. vol. IX.—Monthly Rev. vol. XXXVII.