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Henry Briggs

Henry Briggs was born in Yorkshire, England and attended St. John's College in Cambridge. He graduated in 1581 and 1585 and became a lecturer of mathematics in 1592. In 1596 Briggs became the first professor of geometry at Gresham College in London. By 1615 he was completely engaged in the study, calculation, and teaching of logarithms. He met with Napier and proposed improvements to the logarithmic system developed by Napier. Briggs helped publish some of Napier's work and wrote Logarithmorum chilias prima in 1617. Briggs's major work was Arithmetica logarithmica in 1624. These tables of logarithms were useful tools for those performing large calculations. Briggs spent several years at Merton College in Oxford. He also composed a work on trigonometry (basically tables, both of the functions and of the logs of sines and tangents) that was left unfinished at his death.Thomas Smith, writing early in the 18th century, said that Briggs' parents were "humble of class and rather slender of means." Humble of class could mean too many things to guess, but I take the slender means to state unmistakably that they were poor. Smith indicates that Briggs could not have attended Cambridge without financial assistance from his college. Henry went to school in Cambridge, M.A. St. John's College, Cambridge, 1577-85; B.A., 1581; M.A., 1585. And he left quite a few mathematical manuscripts that remained unpublished. Briggs also devoted some attention to astronomy and saw logarithms initially primarily as a device to aid in astronomical calculations. He published Tables for the Improvement of Navigation, 1610, and North-west Passage to the South Sea, 1622. Briggs was consulted by the Virginia Company about the northwest passage, and from information about tides and currents he deduced the existence of such a passage. From the flow of rivers in Virginia and in the Hudson Bay area, he also



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