John Keill

(1671—1721) mathematician and natural philosopher

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John Keill was born in Edinburgh on 1 December 1671 and died in Oxford on 31 August 1721 of a violent fever. He was the elder brother of James Keill. One of the most important of the early disciples of Newton, John studied mathematics under David Gregory at Edinburgh University. He later followed Gregory to Oxford, where the latter had become Savilian Professor of Astronomy in 1691. Keill received his MA from Balliol College in 1694, and made a living as a lecturer in natural philosophy, giving the first public lectures at Oxford on the Newtonian system. In 1701 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society: as such, he contributed a number of papers to the Philosophical Transactions, mostly on such Newtonian themes as attractive forces and the calculus. He was also a staunch High Churchman, showing that not all the Newtonians were Whigs and latitudinarians. When Gregory died in 1708, Keill failed in his bid to succeed him; instead, he sought a government position, and was appointed ‘Treasurer for the Palatine’, in charge of the funds given to aid German Protestant refugees who wished to emigrate to New England. In 1712 he was also appointed ‘decypherer’ to Queen Anne. In that same year, however, he finally assumed the coveted chair of astronomy at Oxford, which he was to occupy until his death.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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