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Allin, John (1623–1683), nonconformist minister and alchemist, was born on 13 October 1623 in Wrentham, Suffolk, the son of the Revd John Allen, or Allin (c. 1596–1671), and his first wife, Margaret, née Morse (c.1598–1653). At the time of Allin's birth his father was the curate in ...

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Anderson, Adam (1780–1846), natural philosopher and engineer, was born on 29 June 1780 in Tulliallan parish, Perthshire, third son in the family of four sons and two daughters of Andrew Anderson, shipmaster of Kincardine-on-Forth, and his second wife, Anne Moon, of Errol. In later life he shortened his age, claiming to be born in 1783; this was also the date recorded on the gravestone erected by his admirers. Educated in arts and, briefly, divinity, at ...

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John Anderson (1726–1796) after James Tassie, c. 1789 Scottish National Portrait Gallery

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Anderson, John (1726–1796), natural philosopher, was born on 26 September 1726 in the parish of Rosneath, Dunbartonshire, the eldest child of the three sons and one daughter of James Anderson (d. 1734?), the minister of the parish, and his wife, Margaret Turner (...

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Aspall, Geoffrey of (d. 1287), administrator and natural philosopher, took his name from Aspall in Suffolk; his father was a landowner in that county who married a member of the wealthy London family of Bukerel, and he had at least three brothers. Information concerning the dates and place of ...

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Henry Baker (1698–1774) by William Nutter, pubd 1812 (after W. B. Thomson) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Baker, Henry (1698–1774), natural philosopher and teacher of deaf people, was born on 8 May 1698 in Quality Court, Chancery Lane, London, to William Baker, a clerk in chancery, and his wife, Mary, the daughter of Aaron Pengry, comptroller of the petty bag office. His father died when he was very young, and he himself recorded that he was brought up by his paternal grandmother. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to a bookseller of ...

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Barlow, William (1544–1625), Church of England clergyman and natural philosopher, was one of two sons and five daughters born to William Barlow (d. 1568), then bishop of St David's, and his wife, Agatha Wellesbourne (d. 1593), a former nun. His father's elder brother ...

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Baxter, Andrew (1686/7–1750), natural philosopher and metaphysician, was born at Old Aberdeen, the son of a merchant and his wife, Elizabeth Frazer. Baxter studied at King's College, Aberdeen, from 1699 to 1703, and in 1719 was employed by the Hays of Drumelzier, whom he subsequently served in various capacities. While residing with the ...

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Beale, John (bap. 1608, d. 1683), Church of England clergyman and writer on agriculture and natural philosophy, was baptized at Yarkhill, Herefordshire, on 17 April 1608, the sixth and youngest son of Thomas Beale (1575–1620), a lawyer and prominent gentleman farmer, and his wife, ...

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Beaumont, John (c. 1640–1731), natural philosopher and collector of geological specimens, spent most of his life at Ston Easton, Somerset, where he practised medicine. He befriended the miners working in the nearby Mendip hills, with whom he explored newly discovered caverns and rock formations. Stimulated by ...

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Bennet, Abraham (bap. 1749, d. 1799), Church of England clergyman and natural philosopher, was baptized in Taxal, Cheshire, on 20 December 1749, the son of Abraham Bennet, schoolmaster, of Whaley Lane, Cheshire, and his wife, Ann Fallowes of Cheadle. He appears to have been the eldest child, with at least one brother, ...

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Bentham, Edward (1707–1776), university professor, fifth son of the Revd Samuel Bentham (c.1681–1733), a minor canon of Ely, and his wife, Philippa Willen (c.1681–1747), was born in the college at Ely on 23 July 1707, and baptized in the cathedral on 21 August 1707. After singing as a chorister at ...

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Boyle, Robert (1627–1691), natural philosopher, was born on 25 January 1627 at Lismore Castle in the province of Munster, Ireland, the fourteenth child and seventh and youngest son of Richard Boyle, first earl of Cork (1566–1643), lord high treasurer of Ireland, and his second wife, ...

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Robert Boyle (1627–1691) by Johann Kerseboom, c. 1689–90 © Royal Society

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Brereton, William, third Baron Brereton of Leighlin (bap. 1631, d. 1680), politician and natural philosopher, was baptized on 4 May 1631 at Brereton, Cheshire, the eldest son of William Brereton, second Baron Brereton (1611–1664), and his wife, Lady Elizabeth (d. 1687), daughter of ...

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Brewster, Sir David (1781–1868), natural philosopher and academic administrator, was born on 11 December 1781 in a house in the Canongate, Jedburgh, second son and third of the six children of James Brewster (c.1735–1815), rector of Jedburgh grammar school, and his wife, ...

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Sir David Brewster (1781–1868) by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, 1843 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Robert Harrison

revised by Anita McConnell

Brook, Abraham (fl. 1749–1789), bookseller and natural philosopher, of unknown parentage, was the author of Miscellaneous experiments and remarks on electricity, the air pump, and the barometer, with a description of an electrometer of a new construction (1789). Brook explained that he had been interested in electrical experiments since 1749, but hitherto had not seen a friction machine that could produce as much electrical power as the one he had constructed after his friend the ...

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Margaret Bryan (fl. 1795–1816) by William Nutter, pubd 1797 (after Samuel Shelley, 1797) [with her daughters] © National Portrait Gallery, London