Project title

About the Project

John Wallis (1616-1703) was renowned in his day as an outstanding mathematician and it is on his mathematical work that most modern critical study has focused. The present project aimed to raise awareness of his non-mathematical writings and to extend understanding of their significance in accounts of seventeenth-century intellectual history. Critical editions of three texts have been undertaken: his Grammar of the English Language, his Treatise of Logick, and the tract on Ancient and Modern Music which appeared as an the appendix to Wallis’s scholarly edition of Ptolemy’s Harmonica.

These critical editions were underpinned by continuing work on the correspondence of Wallis, which provides evidence of his extensive scholarly contacts throughout Europe and charts his scholarly interests and his influence on many of his contemporaries. Two volumes of the proposed multi-volume edition of Wallis’s correspondence had already appeared, edited by Philip Beeley and Christoph J. Scriba (O.U.P. 2003-2005). The project provided support for further volumes of this work.

In the course of the project, two symposia have drawn a wider range of scholarly expertise into the debate and have brought its activities to wider attention. The first symposium, held at the University of Amsterdam in 2009, was on the theme of Logic and Seventeenth-century Scientific Thought, and aimed to explore the wider context of John Wallis’s writings on logic, both institutionally and intellectually. A second Symposium, held in Oxford in 2010, focused on the role of Wallis as correspondent and controversialist. This confirmed the centrality of Wallis’s extensive correspondence in a comprehensive study of his contribution to seventeenth-century thought.

John Wallis's rich archival legacy ensured his relevance to the development of the Oxford-based international research project, Cultures of Knowledge, which was launched while the Wallis project was under way (see http://www.history.ox.ac.uk/cofk/). Cultures of Knowledge has a larger concern with correspondence networks between scholars in the seventeenth century and how these relate to scientific advances typified by the Royal Society. The biographical insights gained through the Wallis project have fed into Cultures of Knowledge and the edition of the letters will be further extended under its umbrella.

The project has brought together researchers with a wide variety of backgrounds and expertise. The key members have been Philip Beeley, (subsequently transferred to the Cultures of Knowledge project), David Cram (Jesus College, Oxford), Jaap Maat (University of Amsterdam), Masataka Miyawaki (Senshu University, Tokyo) and Bejamin Wardhaugh (All Souls College, Oxford).