Authorised form of nameBall; William (c1627 - 1690); astronomer
Other forms of surnameBalle
Datesc1627 - 1690
Place of birthEngland, Europe
Date of birthc. 1627
Place of deathMamhead, Devon, England, Europe
Dates and placesBurial:
Temple Church, London, England, Europe (22 October 1690)
Research fieldAstronomy
Registered at Middle Temple (1646) but no record of being called to the bar; made observations and drawings of Saturn (1656-1659, 1665-1666)
Membership categoryFounder Fellow
Date of election22/04/1663
Royal Society activityRoyal Society roles:
Treasurer 1660-1663
Committee and panels:
Audit Committee (1668)
Other Royal Society activityUpon his retirement as Treasurer, Ball gifted the Society a iron chest with three locks and the keys, which is still in the possession of the Society today
RelationshipsParents: Sir Peter Ball and Ann Cooke
Siblings: sixteen, incl. Peter Ball (FRS 1663)
Married: Mary Posthuma Hussey
Children: five sons and one daughter
General contextBall stemmed from a legal and mercantile family in Devon, whose estate however was reportedly split and fortune decreased at the beginning of William Ball's life. It also slightly unclear of he belonged to a group of displaced royalists who met in London, amongst whom were also Seth Ward (FRS 1661) and Christopher Wren (Founder Fellow), or whether he became interested in astronomy through lectures at Gresham College. The level of detail in Ball's first accounts as Treasurer fill in much of the administrative history of the Society and its earliest Fellows. Ball's astronomical observations on a belt around Saturn played an important part in Christopher Wren and Christiaan Huygens' work and theories on a elliptical 'corona' and a solid circular ring.
Related imagesDiscover a selection of related images in our picture library
Bulloch's Roll; DNB; ODNB
Armitage, A. 1960. 'William Ball, FRS (1627-1690)', in Notes and Records, vol. 15, pp. 167-172
Gribbin, J. 2004. 'The Fellowship' (Penguin Books)
Maddison, R E W. 1959. 'The Accompt of William Balle from 28 November 1660 to 11 September 1663', in Notes and Records, vol. 14, pp. 174-183
Turnbull, G H. 1953. 'Samuel Hartlib's Influence on the Early History of the Royal Society', in notes and Records, vol. 10, pp. 101-130
The election date is Ball's re-election date into the Society after the grant of the second charter in April 1663. All Fellows admitted in a two-month window after this charter, until 22 June 1663, are considered Original Fellows. He was present at the foundation meeting on 28 Nov 1660, which means he is considered one of the twelve Founder Fellows.
Royal Society codeNA4277
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
MM/16/37Minutes of a committee 'for examining and auditing the accompts of the Treasurer of the Royal Society'28 November 1664
MM/16/40Letter from William Balle, Exeter, to Robert Hooke28 Mar 1682
DM/5/73'Experiments etc recommended to Dr Balle'6 April 1664
DM/5/73E'Experiments and Matters recommended to Mr William Balle'1664
MS/390/71Bond of William Balle to the Treasurer of the Royal Society20 October 1676
DM/5/101A list of benefactors to the Museum, to the value of £5 or upwards at one time c.1737
CLP/4i/1Paper,'Quicksilver experiment at Mamhead' by William Ball1661
EL/B1/109Letter, from William Balle to Robert Moray, dated at Mamhead, Devon15 September 1666
EL/B1/109aLetter, from William Balle to John Hoskins, dated at Exeter, Devon3 July 1682
EL/B1/108Letter, from William Balle to Henry Oldenburg, dated at Mamhead, Devon14 April 1666
RBO/1/29'An Account of the QuickSilver Experiment made at Mamhead by Mr William Ball'nd
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