Authorised form of nameHill; Abraham (1633 - 1721); merchant
Dates1633 - 1721
Dates and placesBirth:
18 April 1633
St Dionis Backchurch, London, England, United Kingdom (16 June 1635)
05 February 1721
The chancel of Sutton-at-Hone Church, Kent, England, United Kingdom (14 February 1721)
Merchant; administrator;
Research field:
Antiquities; languages; natural philosophy
Taught himself several languages and natural and moral philosophy
Entered his father's merchant business and inherited a legacy on death of his parents (1660); purchased the lease of St John's or 'Sutton Manor' estate, Kent (1660) and introduced apples and pears to the estate, for making cider and perry; Treasurer of the Royal Society (1663-1665); Secretary of the Royal Society (1673-1675); colleague and sometime scientific confidant of Robert Hooke FRS; Assistant to the Royal African Company (1683-1685, 1688-1690); Deputy Governor (1691-1692); Commissioner for Trade, Board of Trade (1696-1702); Comptroller to John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury (1691-1694); collected coins and books; retired to his estate of St. John's in Sutton-at-Hone, Kent (1689).
Royal Society activityMembership:
Founder Fellow
Election Date:
28/11/1660 (Present at foundation meeting)
1663-1666, 1672-1721; Treas 1663-1665, 1679-1700; VP 1715-1716
Committee for the quicksilver experiment (1661); Committee to examine Birchensa's synopsis of music (1662); to review Mersenne on the tenacity of bodies (1662); for the making of statutes (1663); to consider experiments for the entertainment of Charles II (1664), for ordinary meetings (1676, 1680); for agriculture, histories of trade, correspondence, experiments on diving (1664, 1679); for the Repository (1666); for the inventory of the Society’s possessions (1676); for the prism experiment in the Newton-Linus dispute (1676); for publication (1676, 1682); for the purchase of property (1678-81, 1703); for the history of Barbados (1681); for verifying entries in the Society’s journal and other books (1682); for the publication of the History of Fishes (1685-86) (14); for Estruscan inscriptions (1700); of Visitors of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich (1710); for the Newton-Leibnitz controversy (1712); to draw up queries to be sent to Moscow (1713).
Secretary of the Society from 1673-1675. Involved in acquiring the Arundel Library (1666 and 1678) and property around Chelsea College (1682) for the Society, and in investing Society funds in stock of the Royal African Company and East India Company (1682). Assisted Nehemiah Grew in describing the coins in the Royal Society Repository for his catalogue of the collection. In his capacity as Secretary acted as Royal Society nominee on patent for inventions (1665) including clocks for finding longitude at sea invented by Christian Huygens and Alexander Bruce, which the Society hoped to profit from. With Sir Hans Sloane, administered Sir Godfrey Copley's bequest of £100 in trust to the Royal Society (1709) which eventually resulted in the establishhment of the Copley Medal (1736).
RelationshipsSon of Richard Hill, merchant and alderman, of London.
Married: 1) Anne Whitelocke (d.1661), daughter of Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke, Kt; 2) Elizabeth Pratt, daughter of Michael Pratt of Bromley-by-Bow, Middlesex
Published works'Some Account of the Life of Dr. Isaac Barrow 1683 ', in The Works of Isaac Barrow ed. John Tillotson, 4 vols (London), 1683-1687
General contextAbraham Hill was an Assistant and later Deputy Governor of The Royal Adventurers into Africa, later Royal African Company (RAC) and as such played a significant
role in its administration. The RAC was a British trading company established by Royal Charter in 1660 which enslaved and sold African people. The company was chartered by Charles II, the founding royal Patron of the Royal Society, which was also chartered in 1660. The RAC was made up of and funded by members of the Stuart royal family and London merchants many of whom were, or went on to become, Fellows of the Royal Society. The Royal Society itself held shares in the company from 1682 until 1699 and as Secretary for the Royal Society in 1682, Abraham Hill was responsible for securing the investment which was approved by the Council of the Royal Society. The RAC held a monopoly on English trade on the west coast of Africa. The original interests of the company were gold and other natural resources. The Company's second charter in 1663 mentions trade in enslaved people, mainly transported to British owned estates in the West Indies and America. The Jesus College Cambridge Legacy of Slavery Working Party has stated that the RAC was responsible for selling more Africans into slavery in America than any other institution in the history of the Atlantic slave trade, and that they ran a brutal regime with the full knowledge of their investors. The company became insolvent in 1708, it survived until 1752 when its assets were transferred to the new African Company of Merchants, which lasted until 1821.
Bulloch's Roll; DNB; Davies; Wikipedia
H. G. Lyons, 'Two Hundred Years Ago: 1739' in NR vol 2 (1939) pp 34-42
G. H. Turnbull, 'Samuel Hartlib's Influence on the Early History of the Royal Society' in NR vol 10 (1953) pp 101-130
R. E. W. Maddison, 'Abraham Hill, FRS (1635-1722)' in NR v.15 (1960) pp.173-182, plate
Mark Govier, 'The Royal Society, Slavery and the Island of Jamaica: 1660-1700' in NR 1999 vol 53 pp 203-217 for information on association with trading companies
J. Gribbin, 'The Fellowship: the story of a revolution', (London, 2005), pp 162-164
C. Malcolmson, 'Studies of skin colour in the early Royal Society', (London, 2016), pp 82-86.
Correspondence of Abraham Hill from various repositories is listed in the Early Modern Letters Online catalogue,,%20abraham&start=0
Royal Society codeNA6148
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
DM/5/63Minutes of meetings of the Committee for Agriculture June-September 1664
DM/5/21Receipts signed by Abraham Hill, Treasurer, Royal Society1681-1683
DM/5/78'Recommended to Mr Hill'c.1660s
IM/002092Hill, Abrahamnd
DM/5/20Hooke's bills of expenditure by him on the Society's account, and an order dated 23 December 1681 by Sir Christopher Wren to Abraham Hill, Treasurer, to pay Hooke £40 23 December 1681
P/0064Portrait of Hill, Abraham
MS/390/17Bond of Abraham Hill to the Treasurer of the Royal Society23 November 1674
MS/390/115Bond of Abraham Hill to the Treasurer of the Royal Society17 January 1706
RBO/3/21'Enquiries for Guiny' [Guinea] by Abraham Hillnd
CLP/19/56Paper, enquiries about Guiny by Abraham Hillc.17th century
EL/T/59Ralph Thoresby, dated at Leeds, to Abraham Hill29 June 1700
DM/5/71Recommendation that seven persons (named) 'do take into their Custody all the Rarities, bookes and other goods and chattells belonging to the Royall Society'17th century
MM/16/39Minutes of a committee 'for taking care of the repository of the Royal Society'3 February 1676
DM/5/64Minutes of meetings of the Committee for Agriculture (endorsed as 'Transactions of the Georgicall Committee')October 1664-February 1664/5
DM/5/12ANote on an order of the Council relating to the payment of arrears at Michaelmas 16735 January 1673
DM/5/66Minutes of meetings of the Mechanicall Committee July-October 1664
IM/002091Hill, Abrahamnd
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