William Oughtred, English mathematician, 1646.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 22cm x 32cm

William Oughtred, English mathematician, 1646.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


William Oughtred (1575-1660) was born in Eton, Buckinghamshire and attended Eton school before going on to Cambridge University in 1592. He was ordained as an episcopal minister in 1603, becoming vicar of Shalford in 1604 and rector of Albury in 1610. While minding his parish, he continued to pursue his interest in mathematics, and taught many pupils, amongst them Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723). He also wrote extensively, and published some notable works including 'Clavis Mathematica' (1631), a textbook on arithmetic and algebra, in which he introduced many new symbols including multiplication and proportion signs. He also invented trigonometrical abbreviations and the slide rule. He is said to have died of joy at hearing of the restoration of King Charles II (1630-1685).

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