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Pro vita sua

From: Christoph J. Scriba, The Autobiography of John Wallis, F.R.S.
In: Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 25 (1970), 17-46; 39-41


About the year 1645, while I lived in London (at a time, when, by our Civil Wars, Academical Studies were much interrupted in both our Universities:) beside the Conversation of divers eminent Divines, as to matters Theological; I had the opportunity of being acquainted with divers worthy Persons, inquisitive into Natural Philosophy, and other parts of Humane Learning; And particularly of what heath been called the New Philosophy or Experimental Philosophy.

We did by agreement, divers of us, meet weekly in London on a certain day, to treat and discours of such affairs. Of which number were Dr. John Wilkins (afterward Bishop of Chester), Dr. Jonathan Goddard, Dr. George Ent, Dr. Glisson, Dr. Merret, (Drs. in Physick,) Mr. Samuel Foster then Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, Mr. Theodore Haak (a German of the Palatinate and then Resident in London, who, I think, gave the first occasion, and first suggested those meetings) and many others.

These meetings we held sometimes at Dr. Goddards lodgings in Woodstreet (or some convenient place near) on occasion of [this] keeping an Operator in h{is} house, for grinding Glasses for Telescopes and Microscopes ; and sometime at a convenient place in Cheap-side; sometime at Gresham College or some place near adjoining.

Our business was (precluding matters of Theology and State Affairs) to disco{urs}and consider of Philosophical Enquiries, and such as related thereunto; as Physi{ck}, Anatomy, Geometry, Astronomy, Navigation, Staticks, Magneticks, Chymicks, Mechanicks, and Natural Experiments; with the State of these Studies, as then cultivated, at home and abroad. We there discoursed of the Circulation of the Bl{ood}, the Valves in the Veins, the Copernican Hypothesis, the Nature of Comets, and New Stars, the Satellites of Jupiter, the Oval Shape (as it then appeared) of Saturn, {the} spots in the Sun, and its Turning on its own Axis, the Inequalities and Selenograp{hy} of the Moon, the several Phases of Venus and Mercury, the Improvement of Telescopes, and grinding of Glasses for that purpose, the Weight of Air, the Possibility or Impossibility of Vacuities, and Natures Abhorrence thereof; the Torricellian Experiment in Quicksilver, the Descent of heavy Bodies, and the degrees of Acceleration therein ; and divers other things of like nature. Some of which were then but New Discoveries, and others not so generally known and embraced, as now they are; With other things appertaining to what heath been called The New Philosophy; which, from the times of Galileo at Florence, and Sr. Francis Bacon (Lord Verulam) in England, heath been much cultivated in Italy, France, Germany, and other Parts abroad, as well as with us in England.

About the year 1648, 1649, some of our company being removed to Oxford (first Dr. Wilkins, then I, and soon after Dr. Goddard) our company divided. Those in London continued to meet there as before (and we with them, when we had occasion to be there;) and those of us at Oxford; with Dr. Ward (since Bishop of Salisbury) Dr. Ralph Bathurst (now President of Trinity College in Oxford) Dr. Petty (since Sr. William Petty) Dr. Willis (then an eminent Physician in Oxford) and divers others, continued such meetings in Oxford; and brought those Studies into fashion there; meeting first at Dr. Petties Lodgings, (in an Apothecaries house) because of the convenience of inspecting Drugs, and the like, as there was occasion; And after his remove to Ireland (tho' not so constantly) at the Lodgings of Dr. Wilkins, then Warden of Wadham Coll. And after his removal to Trinity College in Cambridge, at the Lodgings of the Honorable Mr. Robert Boyle, then resident for divers years in Oxford.


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