Roger Cotes

(1682—1716) mathematician and astronomer

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Roger Cotes was born on 10 July 1682 at Burbage in Lincolnshire, the son of the local rector. He died on 5 June 1716. His aptitude for mathematics was apparent from an early age, and he was sent to St Paul's School in London, then, in 1699, to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1702 and MA in 1706. His abilities attracted the attention of Richard Bentley, the ambitious Master of Trinity, and of William Whiston, Isaac Newton's successor as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Cotes became a Fellow of Trinity in 1705, and was then appointed to the new Plumian chair of astronomy and natural philosophy in January 1706. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1711, and was ordained in 1713. Tragically, he died from a fever at the early age of thirty-three. Newton wrote, to Cotes's cousin Robert Smith, ‘If he had lived, we might have known something.’ Since Newton was not given to handing out idle compliments, we must take this remark seriously. Newton had, after all, the best possible reasons for thinking highly of Cotes's abilities, and for regarding him as one of the very few mathematicians of the age capable not merely of understanding the forbiddingly difficult Principia but even of extending its achievements.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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