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CHARLES HUTTON (1737-1823)

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Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 15 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CHARLES HUTTON (1737-1823), English mathematician, was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne on the 14th of August 1737. He was educated in a school at Jesmond, kept by Mr Ivison, a clergyman of the church of England. There is reason to believe, on the evidence of two pay-bills, that for a short time in 1755 and 1756 Hutton worked in Old Long Benton colliery; at any rate, on Ivison's promotion to a living, Hutton succeeded to the Jesmond school, whence, in consequence of increasing pupils, he removed to Stote's Hall. While he taught during the day at Stote's Hall, he studied mathematics in the evening at a school in Newcastle. In 176o he married, and began tuition on a larger scale in Newcastle, where he had among his pupils John Scott, afterwards Lord Eldon, chancellor of England. In 1764 he published his first work, The Schoolmaster's Guide, or a Complete System of Practical Arithmetic, which in 1770 was followed by his Treatise on Mensuration both in Theory and Practice. In 1772 appeared a tract on The Principles of Bridges, suggested by the destruction of Newcastle bridge by a high flood on the 17th of November 1771. In 1773 he was appointed professor of mathematics at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and in the following year he was elected F.R.S. and reported on Nevil Maskelyne's determination of the mean density and mass of the earth from measurements taken in 1774—1776 at Mount Schiehallion in Perthshire. This account appeared in the Philosophical Transactions for 1778, was afterwards reprinted in the second volume of his Tracts on Mathematical and Philosophical Subjects, and procured for Hutton the degree of LL.D. from the university of Edinburgh. He was elected foreign secretary to the Royal Society in 1779, but his resignation in 1783 was brought about by the president Sir Joseph Banks, whose behaviour to the mathematical section of the society was somewhat high-handed (see Kippis's Observations on the late Contests in the Royal Society, London, 1784). After his Tables of the Products and Powers of Numbers, 1781, and his Mathematical Tables, 1785, he issued, for the use of the Royal Military Academy, in 1787 Elements of Conic Sections, and in 1798 his Course of Mathematics. His Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary, a valuable contribution to scientific biography, was published in 1795 (2nd ed., 1815), and the four volumes of Recreations in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, mostly a translation from the French, in 1803. One of the most laborious of his works was the abridgment, in conjunction with G. Shaw and R. Pearson, of the Philosophical Transactions. This under-taking, the mathematical and scientific parts of which fell.to Hutton's share, was completed in 1809, and filled eighteen volumes quarto. His name first appears in the Ladies' Diary (a poetical and mathematical almanac which was begun in 1704, and lasted till 1871) in 1764; ten years later he was appointed editor of the almanac, a post which he retained till 1817. Previously he had begun a small periodical, Miscellanea Mathematica, which extended only to thirteen numbers; subsequently he published in five volumes The Diarian Miscellany, which contained large extracts from the Diary. He resigned his professorship in 1807, and died on the 27th of January 1823. See John Bruce, Charles Hutton (Newcastle, 1823). His chief works were his Ars versificandi (1511); the Nemo (1518); a work on the 1llorbus Gallicus (1519) ; the volume of Steckelberg complaints against Duke Ulrich (including his four Ciceronian Orations, his Letters and the Phalarismus) also in 1519; the Vadismus (1520); and the controversy with Erasmus at the end of his life. Besides these were many admirable poems in Latin and German. It is not known with certainty how far Hutten was the parent of the celebrated Epistolae obscurorum virorum, that famous satire on monastic ignorance as represented by the theologians of Cologne with which the friends of Reuchlin defended him. At first the cloister-world, not discerning its irony, welcomed the work as a defence of their position; though their eyes were soon opened by the favour with which the learned world received it. The Epistolae were eagerly bought up; the first part (41 letters) appeared at the end of 1515; early in 1516 there was a second edition; later in 1516 a third, with an appendix of seven letters; in 1517 appeared the second part (62 letters), to which a fresh appendix of eight letters was subjoined soon after. In 1909 the Latin text of the Epistolae with an English translation was published by F. G. Stokes. Hutten, in a letter addressed to Robert Crocus, denied that he was the author of the book, but there is no doubt as to his connexion with it. Erasmus was of opinion that there were three authors, of whom Crotus Rubianus was the originator of the idea, and Hutten a chief contributor. 1). F. Strauss, who dedicates to the subject a chapter of his admirable work on flatten, concludes that he had no share in the first part, but that his hand is clearly visible in the second part, which he attributes in the main to him. To him is due the more serious and severe tone of that bitter portion of the satire. See W. Brecht, Die Verfasser der Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1904). For a complete catalogue of the writings of Hutten, see E. Bocking's Index Bibliographicus Huttenianus (1858). Bocking is also the editor of the complete edition of Hutten's works (7 vols., 1859-1862). A selection of Hutten's German writings, edited by G. Balke, appeared in 1891. Cp. S. Szamatolski, Huttens deutsche Schriften (1891). The best biography (though it is also somewhat of a political pamphlet) is that of D. F. Strauss (Ulrich von Hutten, 1857; 4th ed., 1878; English translation by G. Sturge, 1874), with which may be compared the older monographs by A. Wagenseil (1823), A. Biirck (1846) and J. Zeller (Paris, 1849). See also J. Deckert, Ulrich von Hutten Leben and YVirken. Eine historische Skizze (1901). (G. W. K.)
End of Article: CHARLES HUTTON (1737-1823)
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