John Harris was born, probably in Shropshire, in about 1666 and died at Norton Court, near Faversham, Kent. He gained a scholarship to Trinity College, Oxford in 1683, where he studied experimental philosophy and mathematics. After graduating with a BA he taught mathematics there. He was elected FRS in 1696, and appears to have obtained a BD at Cambridge in 1699 and a DD at Lambeth in 1706. He served as Secretary of the Royal Society in 1709–10. He was chaplain to Sir William Cowper, Bt, who later became Lord Chancellor. Sir William secured for Harris various church appointments including that of a prebend of Rochester Cathedral in 1708, and the rectorship of the combined parishes of St Mildred, Bread Street and St Margaret Moses, Friday Street in the City of London. Harris was earlier vicar of Icklesham in Sussex and rector of St Thomas, Winchelsea. He had a bitter quarrel with the Revd Charles Humphrey, who ridiculed his many preferments in a pamphlet entitled The Picture of a High-Flying Clergyman (1716). Harris died a pauper with a reputation for good living and profligacy. He was, at the time, working on a History of Kent of which the first volume was published in 1719. It is said to be unreliable.
From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.