John Wilkins

1614-1672. Bishop of Chester. After studying at Oxford, he became vicar of Fawsley, Northamptonshire, in 1637, and subsequently became a private chaplain, devoting his leisure to scientific studies. His first work in 1638, The Discovery of a World in the Moon, sought to prove the moon habitable, and in 1640 he published A Discourse concerning a New Planet, showing the probability that the earth was a planet. From 1645 he promoted weekly meetings for scientific discussion in London, anticipating the Royal Society.* A supporter of the parliamentary side, he took the Solemn League and Covenant* and was made warden of Wadham College, Oxford, in 1648. Tolerant of Royalists, he gathered a distinguished group of scientists around him and held weekly meetings on the London pattern. He married Cromwell's sister in 1656 and became master of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1659, but was deprived the following year. He accepted the Restoration settlement and after various preferments was made bishop of Chester (1668). In 1662 he became first secretary of the Royal Society, of which he was virtual founder. As bishop of Chester, he tried to promote the toleration and comprehension of dissenters. Besides mathematical works, he wrote On the Principles and Duties of Natural Religion, defending natural theology.

See P.A.W. Henderson, The Life and Times of John Wilkins (1910).