Authorised form of nameWilkins; John (1614 - 1672); theologian and natural philosopher
Dates1614 - 1672
Place of birthFawsley or Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, England, Europe
Date of birth1614
Place of deathChancery Lane, London, England, Europe
Date of death19 November 1672
Dates and placesBurial:
St Lawrence Jewry, London, England, Europe (12 December 1672)
OccupationClergyman, Church of England
Research fieldMathematics
Edward Sylvester's school at Oxford; New Inn Hall, Oxford (matriculated 1627), but moved to Magdalen Hall, BA (1631), MA (1634), BD (1648), DD (1649)
Tutor at Oxford; Vicar of Fawsley (2 June 1637); Ordained as priest at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (18 February 1638); Published 'The discovery of a new world, or, A discourse tending to prive that ('tis probable) there may be another habitable world in the moon' (1638) and 'Discourses concerning a new planet; tending to prove, that ('tis probable) our earth is one of the planets' (1640); Private chaplain, successively, to William Fiennes (1st Viscount Saye and Sele), George (8th Lord Berkeley), and Charles Louis, Prince Elector Palatine (1644); Appointed preacher to Gray's Inn (1645); Published 'Mercury, or, The secret and swift messenger: shewing how a man may with privacy and speed communicate his thoughts to a friend at any distance' (1641); Published first religious work 'Ecclesiastes: A Discourse Concerning the Gift of Preaching' (1646); Published 'Mathematical Magick, or, The Wonders that may be Performed by Mechanical Geometry' (1648); Warden, Wadham College, Oxford (1648-1659); Published 'A Discourse Concerning the Beauty of Providence' (1649); 'A discourse concerning the gift of prayer: shewing what it is, wherein it consists and how far it is attainable by industry' (1651); Advisor to Richard Cromwell (1657); Master of Trinity College, Cambridge (1659); Dean of Ripon Cathedral (1660); Canon of York (1660-1668); Preacher of Gray's Inn (1661); Rector of Cranford, Middlesex (1661); Vicar of St Lawrence Jewry, London (1662-1668); Rector of Polebrooke, Northamptonshire (1666-1667); Canon and Precentor of Exeter (1667-1668); Canon of St Paul's (1668); Dean of Ripon (1668); Rector of Wigan, Lancashire (1668-1672); Bishop of Chester (1668-1672); published 'An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language' (London 1668)
Membership categoryFounder Fellow
Date of election28/11/1660
Royal Society activityRoyal Society roles:
Secretary 1663-1668; Supervision of Thomas Sprat's 'History of the Royal Society' (1667)
Committee and panels:
Anatomical Committee (30 March 1664) ; Auditors of the Treasurers' accounts (c. November 1667)
RelationshipsParents: Walter Wilkins (d. 1625) and Jane Dod;
Siblings: half-brother of Walter Pope (FRS 1663);
Married: 1) unknown (d. 1656) 2) Robina Cromwell, sister of Oliver Cromwell (d. 1689);
Son-in-law: John Tillotson (FRS 1672)
General contextWilkins' method of working and ideas as Warden at Wadham College in Oxford influence many contemporary scholars of a variety of political and religious backgrounds to come together, socialise, and study. For example, Wilkins is accredited of attracting Christopher Wren and Walter Pope, as students to Wadham. Wilkins lost a large portion of his estate and papers in the great fire of London. Generally, he was a strong supporter of latitudinarianism and before his death in 1672, he was thought to be able to rise above Chester. His son-in-law John Tillotson FRS prepared Wilkin's last work posthumously 'Of the Principles and Duties of Natural Religion', and it was considered a consolidation of latitudinarian principles. He is additionally credited with making important contributions to the history of linguistics.
Related imagesDiscover a selection of related images in our picture library

Wilkins P0142.jpg

Bulloch's Roll; DNB; Venn; Foster; Aubrey; ODNB
The Editor (Sir Harold Hartley), 'Epilogue' in NR 1960 vol 15 pp 259-264
Sir Harold Hartley, 'The Debt of Engineering to Fellows of the Royal Society' in NR 1961 vol 16 pp 136-140
G H Turnbull, 'Samuel Hartlib's Influence on the Early History of the Royal Society' in NR 1953 vol 10 pp 101-130
E J Bowen and Sir Harold Hartley, 'The Right Reverend John Wilkins, FRS (1614-1672)' in NR 1960 vol 15 pp 47-56, plate
Douglas McKie, 'The Origins and Foundation of the Royal Society of London' in NR 1960 vol 15 pp 1-37
A C S, 'Notes on the Foundation and History of the Royal Society' in NR 1938 vol 1 pp 32-36
H G Lyons, 'The Society's First Bequest' in NR 1939 vol 2 pp 43-46
Roy S Porter, 'Medical futures' (The Wilkins Lecture 2000) in NR 2001 vol 55 pp 325-329
Susan McMahon, 'John Ray (1627-1705) and the Act of Uniformity 1662' in NR 2000 vol 54 pp 153-178
Neil Chambers, 'Letters From the President: the Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks' in NR 1999 vol 53 pp 27-57
Allan Chapman, 'Edmond Halley's Use of Historical Evidence in the Advancement of Science' in NR 1994 vol 48 pp 167-191, plate
Stephen F Mason, 'Bishop John Wilkins, FRS (1614-72): Analogies of Thought-Style in the Protestant Reformation and Early Modern Science' in NR 1992 vol 46 pp 1-21
Marie Boas Hall, 'The Early Years of the Royal Society', review of Michael Hunter, Establishing the New Science: the Experience of the Early Royal Society in NR 1990 vol 44 pp 265-268
A Rupert Hall and Marie Boas Hall, 'The Intellectual Origins of the Royal Society - London and Oxford' in NR 1968 vol 23 pp 157-168
Christopher Hill, 'The Intellectual Origins of the Royal Society - London or Oxford?' in NR 1968 vol 23 pp 144-156
Michael Hunter, 'Early Problems in Professionalizing Scientific Research: Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) and the Royal Society, With an Unpublished Letter to Henry Oldenburg' in NR 1981-82 vol 36 pp 189-209
William T Stearn, 'The Wilkins Lecture, 1985. John Wilkins, John Ray and Carl Linnaeus' in NR 1985-86 vol 40 pp 101-123
R Lewis, 'The publication of John Wilkins's Essay (1668): some contextual considerations' in NR 2002 vol 56 pp133-146
N J W Thrower, 'Samuel Pepys FRS (1633-1733) and The Royal Society' in NR 2003 vol 57 pp 3-13
L Jardine, 'The 2003 Wilkins Lecture: Dr Wilkins's boy wonders' in NR 2004 vol 58 pp 107-129
J Gribbin, 'The Fellowship', 2005, pp130-134
Related images:
Virtual International Authority File
Royal Society codeNA8296
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
DM/5/68'Transactions of the Committee for Correspondence'19 August 1664, 23 September 1664
IM/004167Wilkins, John2002
IM/004165Wilkins, John2002
IM/004166Wilkins, John2002
IM/004913Wilkins, John1991
IM/004914Wilkins, Johnnd
RBC/1/17'Experiments concerning the force of blowing with a Mans Breath' by Dr Wilkins19 August 1661
DM/5/78C'Experiments recommended to Dr Wilkins'c.1660s
NLB/19/36Copy letter from Robert William Frederick Harrison, to Reverend F Sanders, Hoylake Vicarage, Cheshire6 June 1899
CLP/24/73Inscription, 'A Latin inscription for the tomb stone of John Wilkins' [author unknown]1672
DM/5/101A list of benefactors to the Museum, to the value of £5 or upwards at one time c.1737
CLP/8i/28/1Manuscript, regarding an eclipse of the Moon by [John Palmer]1671
DM/5/64Minutes of meetings of the Committee for Agriculture (endorsed as 'Transactions of the Georgicall Committee')October 1664-February 1665
DM/5/66Minutes of meetings of the Mechanicall Committee July-October 1664
DM/5/70Resolution signed by Henry Oldenburg, appointing a Committee of the Royal Society to consider a way of determining the measure of a degree on the earth21 October 1669
P/0142Portrait of Wilkins, Johnc1660
CLP/8i/28/2Drawing, astronomical diagram by [John Palmer]1671
RBO/1/15'Experiments concerning the force of blowing with a mans breath by Dr Wilkins'19 August 1661
CLP/10i/2Paper, 'Observations on the humble and sensible plants in Mr Chiffin's garden in St James his parke' by Dr Clarke9 August 1661
EL/E/2Copy of a letter, from John Evelyn to Dr [John] Wilkins1660
EL/P1/43Letter, from Walter Pope to John Wilkins, dated at Rome5 April 1664
EL/P1/45Letter, from Walter Pope to John Wilkins, dated at Brussels13 January 1664
CLP/4i/17Paper, 'Experiments concerning the force of blowing with a man's breath' by Dr [John] Wilkins1661
EL/E/1Letter, from John Evelyn to Dr [John] Wilkins, dated at Sayes Court29 January 1661
EL/W3/4Letter, from Christopher Wren to John Wilkins, dated at Wadham College26 November 1663
CLP/8i/28Paper, regarding an eclipse of the Moon by [John Palmer]1671
EL/P1/44Letter, from Walter Pope to John Wilkins, dated at Padova [Padua]1 August 1664
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