Authorised form of namePell; John (1611 - 1685); mathematician
Dates1611 - 1685
Place of birthSouthwick, Sussex, England, Europe,
Date of birth1 March 1611
Place of deathDyot Street, London, England, Europe
Date of death12 December 1685
Dates and placesBurial:
Rector's vault of St Giles-in-the-Fields, London, England, Europe
OccupationClergyman, Church of England
Research fieldMathematics
Mr John Jefferies School at Steyning, Sussex; Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1624; BA (1628), MA (1630)); Incorporated at Oxford (1631); DD (Lambeth 1663)
Assistant Master at Collyer's School in Horsham and teacher at Chichester Academy in Sussex (1630-1638); Published 'An Idea of Mathematics' (1638); Professor of Mathematics at 'Gymnasium Illustre' in Amsterdam (1643); Professor of Philosophy and Mathematics at Breda (1646); Published 'A Refutation of Longomontanus' Pretended Quadrature of the Circle' (1646/7); Returned to England (1652); Cromwell's Envoy and then Resident at Zurich (1654-1658); Editor on Rahn's 'Teutsche Algebra' (1659); Ordained deacon and priest (1661); Rector of Fobbing, Essex (1661-1685); Vicar of Laindon and Basildon, Essex (1663-1685); Chaplain to Gilbert Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury (FRS 1665); Published 'A Table of Ten Thousand Square Numbers' (1672); Imprisoned for debt twice and given asylum at the Royal College of Physicians by Daniel Whistler (FRS 1663)
Membership categoryOriginal Fellow
Date of election20/05/1663
Royal Society activityRoyal Society roles:
On Council (c. 1676)
Committee and panels:
Committee on mechanical and optical inventions (1664) ; Committee on reporting and conducting experiments on natural phenomena (1664)
RelationshipsParents: John Pell (d.1616) and Mary Holland (d.1617)
Married: 1) Ithumaria Ragnolles (d.1661)
Children: four daughters and four sons
General contextPell's return to England in 1652 was likely connected to the imminent First English-Dutch War. By Cromwell, Pell was employed in a diplomat's role in Switzerland in order to detach the protestant cantons from France and gather them within a continental protestant league headed by England. Pell frequently worked towards a goal of accumulating, systemising, and organising mathematical study and showcasing a breadth of knowledge on mathematical literature. Pell's equation was attributed to him by Euler in a letter to Goldbach (1750), and he is frequently cited as the inventor of the division sign, although this was first published by his student Johann Rahn (1622-1676).
Bulloch's Roll; DNB; DSB; Venn; Foster; Aubrey; ODNB
Noel Malcolm, 'The publications of John Pell, FRS (1611-1685): some new light and some old confusions' in NR 2000 vol 54 pp 275-292
Linda Levy Peck, 'Uncovering the Arundel Library at the Royal Society: Changing Meanings of Science and the Fate of the Norfolk Donation' in NR 1998 vol 52 pp 3-24
D J Bryden, 'Magnetic Inclinatory Needles: Approved by the Royal Society?' in NR 1993 vol 47 pp 17-31
G H Turnbull, 'Samuel Hartlib's Influence on the Early History of the Royal Society' in NR 1953 vol 10 pp 101-130
T Quinn, 'In this issue' in NR 2004 vol 58 pp 245 - 247
N Malcolm, 'An unpublished letter from Henry Oldenburg to Johann Heinrich Rahn' in NR 2004 vol 58 pp 249 - 266
S. Lawrence FIMA, 'Historical Notes: Pell's Contribution to Mathematics', 12 October 2018
The election date is Pell'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 previously mentioned as a member on 24 December 1662.
Index to BR offers alternative election date 13 August 1662.
Virtual International Authority File
Royal Society codeNA8085
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
CLP/24/3Paper, 'Answer to the Latin algebraic question sent out of France' by Dr John Pellc.17th century
CLP/8i/6Paper,'Observations of the solar eclipse on 28 January' by Dr Pell1663
CLP/2/9Extract of a letter, regarding Campani's telescope from J Henricus Rohnius to [John Pell?]17 April 1675
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