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John WALLIS (1616-1703). Eclipsis Solaris Oxonii Visae anno …1654. 2° die mensis Augusti, stilo veteri, Observatio. Oxford: Typis L. Lichfield academiæ typographi, impensis Tho. Robinson, 1655. Octavo (190 x 140mm). 9 pages. Tables and a folding diagram of the eclipse of the sun. (Preliminary pages are detached. Unbound. Provenance: C. Fournerat (‘avocat’, early ink stamp to foot of title).
A good copy of the first edition. John Wallis Latin: Wallisius; 3 December 23 November] 1616 – 8 November 1703 was an English clergyman and mathematician who is given partial credit for the development of infinitesimal calculus. Between 1643 and 1689 he served as chief cryptographer for Parliament and, later, the royal court. He is credited with introducing the symbol ∞ to represent the concept of infinity. He similarly used 1/∞ for an infinitesimal. John Wallis was a contemporary of Newton and one of the greatest intellectuals of the early renaissance of mathematics. In 1649 Wallis was appointed as Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford. Wallis seems to have been chosen largely on political grounds (as perhaps had been his Royalist predecessor Peter Turner, who despite his appointment to two professorships never published any mathematical works); while Wallis was perhaps the nation's leading cryptographer and was part of an informal group of scientists that would later become the Royal Society, he had no particular reputation as a mathematician. Nonetheless, Wallis' appointment proved richly justified by his subsequent work during the 54 years he served as Savilian Professor.