Taylor, Brook

, a celebrated philosopher and mathematician, was born at Edmonton in Middlesex, Aug. 28, 1685. His grandfather, Nathaniel Taylor, was one of the Puritans whom Cromwell elected by later, June 14, 1653, to represent the county of Bedford in parliament. His father, John Taylor, esq. of Bifrons in Kent, is said to have still retained some of the austerity of the puritanic character, but was sensible of the power of music; in consequence of which, his son Brook studied that science early, and became a proficient in it, as he did also in drawing. He studied the classics and mathematics with a private tutor at home, and made so successful a progress, that at fifteen he was thought to be qualified for the university. In 1701 he went to St. John’s college, Cambridge, in the rank of a fellow-commoner, and immediately applied himself with zeal to the study of mathematical science, which alone could gain distinction there. It was not long before he became an author in that science, for, in 1708, he wro e his “Treatise on the Centre of Oscillation,” though it was not published till it appeared some years after in the Philosophical Transactions. In 1709, he took the degree of bachelor of laws; and about the same time commenced a correspondence with professor Keil, on subjects of the most abstruse mathematical disquisition. In 1712 he was elected into the Royal Society, to which in that year he presented three papers, one, “On the Ascent of Water betwetMi two Glass Planes.” 2. “On the Centre of Oscillation.” 3. “On the Motion of a stretched String.” He presented | also, in 1713, a paper on his favourite science of music; but this, though mentioned in his correspondence with iteil, does not appear in the Transactions.

His distinguished abilities as a mathematician had now recommended him particularly to the esteem of the Royal Society, who, in 1714, elected him to the office of secretary. In the same year, he took the degree of doctor of laws, at Cambridge. In 1715, he published his “Methodus incrementorum,” and a curious essay in the Philosophical Transactions, entitled, “An Account of an Experiment for the Discovery of the Laws of Magnetic Attraction;” and, besides these, his celebrated work on perspective, entitled “New Principles of Linear Perspective: or the art of designing, on a plane, the representations of all sorts of objects, in a more general and simple method than has hitherto been done.‘ 7 This work has gone through several editions, and received some improvements from Mr. Colson, Lucasian professor at Cambridge. In the same; year Taylor conducted a controversy, in a correspondence with Raymond count de Montmort, respecting the tenets of Malbranche, which occasioned him to be noticed afterwards in the eulogium pronounced on that celebrated metaphysician. In 1716, by invitation from several learned men, to whom his merits were well known, Dr. Taylor visited Paris, where he was received with every mark of respect and distinction. Early in 1717, he returned to London, and composed three treatises, which are in the thirtieth volume of the Philosophical Transactions. But his health having been impaired by intense application, he was now advised to go to Aix-la-chapelle, and resigned his office of secretary to the Royal Society. After his return to England in 1719, it appears that he applied his mind to studies of a religious nature, the result of which were found in some dissertations preserved among his papers,” On the Jewish Sacrifices,’ 7 &c. He did not, however, neglect his former pursuits, but amused himself with drawing, improved his treatise on linear perspective, and wrote a defence of it against the attacks of J. Bernoulli!, in a paper which appears in the thirtieth volume of the Philosophical Transactions, Bernouilli objected to the work as too abstruse, and denied the author the merit of inventing his system. It is indeed acknowledged, that though Dr. B. Taylor discovered it for himself, he was not the first who had trod the same path, as it had been done by Guido Ubaldi, | in a book on perspective, published at Pesaro in 1600. The abstruseness of his work has been obviated by another author, in a work entitled, “Dr. Brook Taylor’s method of Perspective made easy, both in theory and practice, &c. by Joshua Kirby, painter;” and this publication has continued to be the manual both of artists and dilettanti. Towards the end of 1720, Dr. Taylor visited lord Bolingbroke, near Orleans, hut returned the next year, and published his last paper in the Philosophical Transactions, which described, “An Experiment made to ascertain the Proportion of Expansion in the Thermometer, with regard to the Degree of Heat.

Dr. Brook Taylor was twice married, and both times so unfortunate as to lose his wife after a very short period. The first lady was a Miss Bridges, of Wallington in Surry, to whom he was united in 1721. As this lady, though of a good family, had little fortune, his marriage with her occasioned a rupture with his father, which lasted till after the birth of a son, who unhappily did not* long survive. He became a widower in 1723. The two following years he resided with his father at Bifrons; and, in 1725, formed a new marriage with the daughter of John Sawbridge, esq. ofOlantighin Kent. In 1729, he succeeded to his father’s estate at Bifrons, but in the following year had the misfortune to lose his second wife in child-bed; a blow which, in the impaired state of his health, he was unable to sustain. His remaining days were days of imbecility and sorrow, and he survived little more than a year. On the 29th of December, 1731, he died of a decline, in the forty-sixth year of his age, and was buried at St. Anne’s, Soho.

In the interval between 1721 and his death, he appears to have been in part disabled by ill health, and in part diverted by other objects from severe study. “A Treatise on Logarithms,” addressed to his friend lord Paisley, afterwards lord Abercorn, is almost the only fruit of his labour which has been found to belong to that period; and 'this has never been published. After the loss of his second wife, he seems to have endeavoured to divert his mind by study; and an essay, entitled “Contemplatio Philosophica,” printed, but not published, by his grandson, sir William Young, in 1793, was probably written at this time, and for this purpose. It was the effort of a strong mind, and affords a most remarkable example of the close logic of the | mathematician, applied to metaphysics. The effort, however, was Tain, and equally vain were the earnest endeavours of his friends to amuse and comfort him by social gratifications. Dr. Taylor is proved by his writings to have been a finished scholar, and a profound mathematician: he is recorded to have been no less a polished gentleman, and a sound and serious Christian. It is said of him, that “he inspired partiality on his first address; he gained imperceptibly on acquaintance; and the favourable impressions which he made from genius and accomplishments, he fixed in further intimacy, by the fundamental qualities of benevolence and integrity.” His skill in drawing is also commended in the highest terms. “He drew figures,” says his biographer, “with extraordinary precision and beauty of pencil. Landscape was yet his favourite branch of design. His original landscapes are mostly painted in water-colours, but with all the richness and strength of oils. They have a. force of colour, a freedom of touch, a varied disposition of planes of distance, and a learned use of aerial as well as linear perspective, which all professional men who have seen these paintings have admired. Some pieces are compositions; some are drawn from nature: and the general characteristic of their effect may be exemplified, by supposing the bold fore-grounds of Salvator Rosa to be backed by the ession of distances, and mellowed by the sober harmony which distinguishes the productions of Caspar Poussin. The small figures, interspersed in the landscapes, would not have disgraced the pencil of the correct and classic Nicolas.

The daughter of Dr. Brook Taylor, by his second wife, survived him; and it is to her son, sir William Young, that the public is indebted for the account of that eminent man, from which the present narrative has been drawn up. 1


Life prefixed to the “Contemplatio Philosophicæ.