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Title: Ingenious philosopher : John Theophilus Desaguliers (1683-1744), popularizer of Newtonianism and promoter of freemasonry
Author: Carpenter, Audrey T.
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2010
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Abstract:
This account of John Theophilus Desaguliers and his diverse contribution to London life during the first part of the eighteenth century adds extensively to previous biographical material. The arrangement is essentially thematic, as too many activities overlap for a strictly chronological narrative. Desaguliers's main interests were 'twofold: the dissemination of Newtonian ideas and applications of new technologies; and freemasonry. An ordained Anglican minister of Huguenot descent, he was also a translator and an occasional poet. These varied interests are reflected in the structure of the thesis. The Introduction offers a summary of contemporary thought on Newtonian science and associated religious controversy in the early eighteenth century. The first section deals with Desaguliers's early life and his introduction to Newtonian ideas while a student at Oxford. Then, in the context of the current public scene, the development of his reputation in London and beyond as a lecturer in experimental philosophy and astronomy is described, together with his work as a demonstrator for the Royal Society. The next section examines ways in which he used his technical expertise at the dawn of the industrial revolution to assist with projects for his patron the Duke of Chandos, and in various engineering works. Desaguliers's comprehensive two-volume Course of Experimental Philosophy was based on his lectures but also merits attention for its details of a practical and technological nature. The final section initially considers Desaguliers's important and lasting contribution to freemasonry. More personal matters are then addressed: poetry, family and health, and life in the house in Westminster that was for many years central to all Desaguliers's activities. The Conclusion assesses his significance as a freemason and importance as a champion of Newtonianism. Use of contemporary manuscripts, newspapers and printed sources has yielded valuable new information on Desaguliers's life and career, and on his circle of acquaintance. It is suggested that his various endeavours may have been motivated in part by a desire to vindicate his deprived background and become accepted, and indeed respected, by London society, as well as by a genuine belief in the importance of the dissemination of new scientific and technological ideas and in the social benefits of association in groups such as the freemasons.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.525683  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Studies in the Creative Arts and Writing not elsewhere classified ; Desaguliers ; Eighteenth-century technology ; Experimental philosophy ; Freemasonry ; Grand Lodge ; Newtonianism ; Patronage ; Royal Society
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