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a singular instance of an almost universal genius, and of learning,

, a singular instance of an almost universal genius, and of learning, mechanical ingenuity, and ceconomy, applied to useful purposes, was the eldest son of Anthony Petty, a clothier at Rumsey, in Hampshire, and was born May 16, 1623. It does not appear that his father was a man of much property, as he left this son none at his death, in 1641, and contributed very little to his maintenance. When young, the boy took extraordinary pleasure in viewing various mechanics at their work, and so readily conceived the natjure of their employment, and the use of their tools, that he was, at the age of twelve, able to iiandle the latter with dexterity not much inferior to that of the most expert workmen in any trade which he had ever seen. What education he had was first at the grammar-school at Rum?ey, where, according to his own account, he acquired, before the age of fifteen, a competent knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and French languages, and became master of the common rules of arithmetic, geometry, dialling, and the astronomical part of navigation. With this uncommon fund of various knowledge he removed, at the above age of fifteen, to the university of Caen in Normandy. This circumstance is mentioned among those particulars of his early life which he has given in his will, although, by a blunder of the transcriber, Oxford is put for Caen in Collir.s’s Peerage. Wood says that, when he went to Caen, “with a little stock of merchandizing which he then improved, he maintained himself there, learning the French tongue, and at eighteen years of age, the arts and mathematics.” Mr. Aubrey’s account is in these not very perspicuous words: “He has told me, there happened to him the most remarkable accident of life (which he did not tell me), and which was the foundation of all the rest of his greatness and acquiring riches. He informed me that about fifteen, in March, he went over to Caen, in Normandy, in a vessel that went hence, with a little stock, and began to play the merchant, and had so good successe that he maintained himselfe, and also educated himselfe: this I guesse was that most remarkable accident that he meant. Here he learned the French tongue, and perfected himself in Latin, and had Greeke enough to serve his turne. At Caen he studyed the arts. At eighteen, he was (I have heard him say) a better mathematician than he is now; but when occasion is, he knows how to recurre to more mathematical knowledge.” These accounts agree in the main points, and we may learn from both that he had at a very early period begun that money-making system which enabled him to realize a vast fortune. He appears to have been of opinion, that “there are few ways in which a man can be more harmlessly employed than in making money.” On his return to his native country, he speaks of being 1 preferred to^the king’s navy, but in what capacity is not known*. This he attributes to the knowledge he had acquired, and his “having been at the university of Caen.” In the navy, however, before he was twenty years of age, he got together about 60l. and the civil war raging at this time, he determined to set out on his travels, for further improvement in his studies. He had now chosen medicine as a profession, and in the year 1643, visited Leyden, Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Paris, at which last city he studied anatomy, and read Vesalixis with the celebrated Hobbes, who was partial to him. Hobbes was then writing on optics, and Mr. Petty, who had a turn that way, drew his diagrams, &c. for him. While at Paris, he informed Aubrey that “at one time he was driven to a great streight for money, and told him, that he lived a week or two on three pennyworths of walnuts.” Aubrey likewise queries whether he was not some time a prisoner there. His ingenuity and industry, however, appear to have extricated him from his difficulties, for we have his own authority that; he returned home in 1646, a richer man by IQl. than he set out, and yet had maintained his brother Anthony as well as himself.