Reference numberMS/39
Previous numbersMS 39, 46, 130, 139
TitlePapers of Benjamin Robins
CreatorRobins, Benjamin (1707-1771) Mathematician and Engineer
DescriptionNotebooks and Papers of Benjamin Robins, consisting of a miscellaneous notebook primarily on gunnery and fortification (MS 39), a commonplace book (MS 46), a box of miscellaneous papers (MS 130), and a letter to Martin Folkes enclosing a written message from the Chevalier Ossorio, Envoy from the King of Sardinia on the proper charge of cannon (MS 139).
ExtentTwo volumes (MS small), one box, and a letter
Finding aidsArchive card catalogue of individual notebooks
Access statusOpen
Administrative historyBorn in 1707 in Bath, showing his mathematical ability at an early age. Came to London, teaching himself modern languages and the higher mathematics to prepare himself for teaching. Without help he demonstrated Newton's 'Treatise of Quadratures', published in the 'Philosophical Transactions' and in 1728 published a masterly confutation of of a dissertation by Jean Bernouilli on the laws of motion in bodies impinging on one another. Such fame brought him many students, and he spent some years teaching pure and applied mathematics, until he became bored and became an engineer, devoting himself to making mills, bridges, harbours and making rivers navigable. More importantly, he also studied gunnery and fortification, helped in this by his friend William Ockenden. In 1739 he wrote a number of able political pamphlets in the tory interest, which brought him to political notice, and he was appointed secretary of the committee nominated by the House of Commons to examine and report on the past conduct of Walpole. In 1741 he was unsuccessful in being appointed professor of fortification at the Royal Military Academy established at Woolwich, but in 1742 he published his best known work 'New Principles of Gunnery' which he had begun in support of his candidacy. It was translated into German by Euler, whose critical commentary on it was translated into English, and published by the order of the Board of Ordnance with remarks by Hugh Brown of the Tower of London. The French also translated the 'New Principle' for the Academy of Science in Paris in 1751. He invented the ballistic pendulum, a device for measuring the velocity of a projectile, and communicated to the Royal Society on this and other gunnery topics, including exhibiting various experiments. In 1747 he was awarded the Copley medal. Robins' friend and patron Lord Anson, on his return from the voyage around the world in the 'Centurion' , entrusted him with the task of revising his account of the voyage from the journals kept by his chaplain, Richard Walter. This led to a dispute between Robins and Walter as to who actually wrote the published work, though it seems probable it was Robins who revised and edited the work, and was especially entrusted with the second volume containing the nautical observations, which he took to India and could not be found after his death. Lord Anson enabled Robins to continue his experiments in gunnery, whose results were published in the 'Philosophical Transactions'. In 1749 he accepted the post of engineer-general to repair the forts of the East India Company, to Lord Anson's regret, and took with him a complete set of astronomical instruments, as well as instruments for making observations and experiments. On his arrival at Madras [Chennai] in 1750 he designed projects for Fort St. David and the defence of Madras. Following a fever, he died at Fort St. David. His executor, Thomas Lewis, entrusted Dr James Wilson with the publication of his works, which he did in 1761, the publication becoming a text book.
Fellows associated with this archive
NA2673Robins; Benjamin (1707 - 1751)1707 - 1751
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