John Bainbridge

by John Stephens

John Bainbridge was an eminent astronomer and mathematician, born at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, in Leicestershire, in 1582. Ashby is a small market town and civil parish in North West Leicestershire, England, within the National Forest. It is twinned with Pithiviers in north-central France.

He studied at Cambridge, whence, having taken the degree of M.A., he returned to his native place, set up a grammar-school, and at the same time practised physics, devoting his leisure to the science of mathematics.

He at length removed to London, and was admitted a fellow of the College of Physicians, the first medical institution in England to receive a royal charter.

A description of the Comet of 1618, which John Bainbridge published and that had the title "An astronomicall description of the late comet from the 18. of Nouemb. 1618. to the 16. of December following. With certaine morall progosticks or applications drawne from the comets motion and irradiation amongst the celestiall hierglyphicks. By vigilant and diligent obseruations of Iohn Bainbridge Doctor of Physicke, and louer of the mathematicks", was the means of introducing him to Sir Henry Savile, who had founded an astronomical lecture at Oxford, and who in 1619 appointed Dr. Bainbridge to the professorship.

Although Bainbridge's work on the Comet of 1618 accepted to a point the superstitious belief that comets appear as signs of impending disaster, in Antiprognosticon (1642) he recanted and vigorously denounced astrological superstitions of this nature.

John Bainbridge then entered as a mastercommoner at Merton College, where in 1631 he was nominated reader of Linacre's medical lecture.

He died in 1643, while engaged in publishing corrected editions of the works of the ancient astronomers, an undertaking which was one of the duties enjoined on him as Savilian professor.

His only published works besides that already mentioned are: Procli Sphaera et Ptolemaei de Hypothesibus PLanetarum, together with Ptolemaei Canon Regnorum; and Canicularia, A Treatise on the Dog Star (1648).

He left some astronomical dissertations, and various other manuscripts, which are preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin.

He was a friend of Christopher Heydon, the writer on astrology; and also of John Greaves, his successor to both the Savilian chair and Linacre's lectures.

Also see: Astronomy for Everyone