Isaac Barrow

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Isaac Barrow (October 1630 – 4 May 1677) was an English Christian theologian, and mathematician who is generally given credit for his early role in the development of infinitesimal calculus; in particular, for the discovery of the fundamental theorem of calculus. His work centered on the properties of the tangent; Barrow was the first to calculate the tangents of the kappa curve. Isaac Newton was a student of Barrow's, and Newton went on to develop calculus in a modern form. The lunar crater Barrow is named after him.

Contents

Biography

Barrow was born in London. He was the son of Thomas Barrow, a linen draper by trade. Thomas married Ann, daughter of William Buggin of North Cray, Kent in 1624 and their son Isaac was born in 1630. Ann died in 1634 and Thomas sent Isaac to live with his grandfather. He went to school first at Charterhouse (where he was so turbulent and pugnacious that his father was heard to pray that if it pleased God to take any of his children he could best spare Isaac), and subsequently to Felsted School, where he settled and learned under the brilliant Puritan Headmaster Martin Holbeach who ten years previously had educated John Wallis.[1] He completed his education at Trinity College, Cambridge; his uncle and namesake, afterwards Bishop of St Asaph, was a Fellow of Peterhouse. He took to hard study, distinguishing himself in classics and mathematics; after taking his degree in 1648, he was elected to a fellowship in 1649.[2] Barrow received an MA from Cambridge in 1652 as a student of James Duport; he then resided for a few years in college, and became candidate for the Greek Professorship at Cambridge, but in 1655 he was driven out by the persecution of the Independents. He spent the next four years travelling across France, Italy and even Constantinople, and after many adventures returned to England in 1659.

He is described as "low in stature, lean, and of a pale complexion," slovenly in his dress, and an inveterate smoker. He was noted for his strength and courage, and once when travelling in the East he saved the ship by his own prowess from capture by pirates. A ready and caustic wit made him a favourite of Charles II, and induced the courtiers to respect even if they did not appreciate him. He wrote with a sustained and somewhat stately eloquence, and with his blameless life and scrupulous conscientiousness was an impressive personage of the time.

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