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Henry Oldenburg

(c. 1618—1677) scientific correspondent and secretary of the Royal Society


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Henry Oldenburg was born in Bremen, Germany and died in London. He enrolled at the Gymnasium Illustre in Bremen in 1633, graduating MA in 1639. Thereafter he travelled to the Netherlands, studying at the University of Utrecht in 1641, where he encountered the philosophy of Descartes. For the next twelve years his movements are unknown, though it is possible that he acted as a private tutor. And it is most likely that it was in this period that he acquired his wide knowledge of Europe and European languages, including English. In 1653 he went to England on a diplomatic mission for Bremen. Apart from a few visits to the Continent, Oldenburg resided thereafter in London. His circle of acquaintances in England included John Dury, Samuel Hartlib, John Milton and Thomas Hobbes. He also made the acquaintance of the Boyle family, including Robert Boyle and his sister Lady Ranelagh, and served as tutor to her son, Richard Jones, future Earl of Ranelagh, whom he accompanied on a European tour in 1657. On his return to London in 1660 he was associated with the Gresham College group and the proposal for founding the Royal Society, which he joined in 1661. When the Society was granted its royal charter in 1662, he was named as one of two secretaries, thanks to the support of Robert Boyle. He married twice: first, in 1663, to Dorothy West, who died in 1665; and second, in 1668, to his ward, Katherina Dury. He had two children, Rupert and Sophia, by his second marriage.

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From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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