Robert Payne

(1596—1651) Church of England clergyman and natural philosopher

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Robert Payne was born in Abingdon in 1595 or 1596 and died there in early November 1651. The son of a woollen draper who was four times mayor of the town, he was educated at Abingdon Grammar School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained a BA in 1614 and an MA 1617. He became a founding Fellow of Pembroke College in 1624, partly due to the role of the Corporation of Abingdon in the establishment of the College. It is likely that in the same year he unsuccessfully stood for the Gresham chair of astronomy, which was given to Henry Gellibrand. An anonymous poem of 1626 refers to his candidature for the position of Proctor at Christ Church, Oxford, which he never gained. In 1630 he became rector of Tormarton, Gloucestershire. William Cavendish, the Earl of Newcastle, who offered him the living there, was to further employ him as his chaplain at Welbeck, Nottinghamshire, in 1632. In 1638 Payne became a canon of Christ Church and resident of Oxford where his friends included the poet Robert Burton, author of The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). In 1642 he was created a DD along with Jeremy Taylor and George Morley. He was deprived of his parish in 1646, in part because of a three-year absence, and expelled from Christ Church by the Parliamentary Visitation in 1648 together with fellow canons Robert Sanderson, George Morley and Henry Hammond. He retired to his native Abingdon, where he stayed with his sister and brother-in-law, confirmed in letters to Gilbert Sheldon between 1649–51. The letters contain discussion of University matters and recent publications by Hobbes, Gassendi, Descartes and Athanasius Kircher, as well as references to his correspondence with Hobbes in Paris.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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