Briggs, Henry

▪ English mathematician
born February 1561, Warleywood, Yorkshire, England
died January 26, 1630, Oxford

      English mathematician who invented the common, or Briggsian, logarithm. His writings were mainly responsible for the widespread acceptance of logarithms throughout Europe. His innovation was instrumental in easing the burden of mathematicians, astronomers, and other scientists who must make long and tedious calculations.

      About 1577 Briggs entered St. John's College, Cambridge (Cambridge, University of), where he received a bachelor's degree in 1581 and a master's degree in 1585. He was elected a fellow of St. John's in 1589 and a lecturer in mathematics and medicine there in 1592. While at St. John's, Briggs began research in astronomy and navigation with the mathematician Edward Wright. In 1596 Briggs was appointed the first professor of geometry at the newly opened Gresham College in London, and for more than two decades he was instrumental in establishing it as a major centre for scientific research and advanced mathematical instruction. Briggs also took an active part in bridging the gap between mathematical theory and practice. He instructed mariners in navigation, advised explorers on various proposed expeditions, and invested in the London Company (Virginia Company) (responsible for founding Jamestown (Jamestown Colony), Virginia, in 1607). His publications from this period include A Table to find the Height of the Pole, the Magnetic Declination being given (1602) and Tables for the Improvement of Navigation (1610); he returned to the subject of exploration later with A Treatise of the Northwest Passage to the South Sea, Through the Continent of Virginia and by Fretum Hudson (1622). In addition, Briggs's advice was avidly sought on surveying, shipbuilding, mining, and drainage.

      Briggs's early research focused primarily on astronomy and its applications to navigation, and he was among the first to disseminate the ideas of the astronomer Johannes Kepler (Kepler, Johannes) (1571–1630) in England. However, with the publication of John Napier (Napier, John)'s Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio (1614; “Description of the Marvelous Canon of Logarithms”), Briggs immediately realized the logarithm's potential to ease astronomical and navigational calculations and so turned his attention and energy to improving the idea. During 1615 and 1616 Briggs paid two long visits to Edinburgh, Scotland, to collaborate with Napier on his new invention, during which time he convinced Napier of the benefit of modifying his logarithms to use base 10, now known as common logarithms, or Briggsian logarithms in his honour. (Napier had used a base approximately equal to 1/e, where e  2.718, and logarithms with base e are now called natural logarithms, or Napierian logarithms.) In 1617, shortly after Napier's death, Briggs published Logarithmorum Chilias Prima (“Introduction to Logarithms”), wherein he offered a brief explanation of the new invention together with the logarithms of numbers from 1 to 1,000, calculated to 14 decimal places. For the next several years, Briggs devoted himself to the time-consuming and laborious task of constructing a larger table of logarithms. The Arithmetica Logarithmica (“Common Logarithms”), published in 1624, advertised the utility of logarithms in expediting calculations. In addition to tables of logarithms from 1 to 20,000 and from 90,000 to 100,000 calculated to 14 decimal places, an extended preface provided ample testimony of Briggs's originality. The preface contained an important discussion of the nature and construction of logarithms that anticipated by nearly half a century the foundational work of James Gregory (Gregory, James) (1638–1675) and Isaac Newton (Newton, Sir Isaac) (1643–1727), among others. Furthermore, Briggs's lengthy immersion in the practical interpolation of logarithmic functions resulted in his anticipating Newton in the discovery of the binomial theorem.

      By the time the Arithmetica Logarithmica was published, Briggs no longer resided in London, as he was elected Savilian Professor of Astronomy at the University of Oxford (Oxford, University of) in 1619. The following year he published an edition of the first six books of Euclid's Elements but, unfortunately, did not live long enough to complete a revised and full edition of the text. His final publication, the Trigonometria Britannica (1633; “Trigonometry in Britain”), covering the application of logarithms to trigonometric functions, appeared posthumously.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Briggs,Henry — Briggs (brĭgz), Henry. 1561 1630. English mathematician who devised the decimal based system of logarithms and invented the modern method of long division. * * * …   Universalium

  • Briggs , Henry — (1561–1630) English mathematician Born in Warley Wood, Briggs became a fellow of Cambridge University in 1588 and was later made a lecturer (1592) and a professor (1596) of geometry at Gresham College, London. He is remembered chiefly for the… …   Scientists

  • Briggs, Henry — SUBJECT AREA: Electronics and information technology [br] b. February 1561 Warley Wood, Yorkshire, England d. 26 January 1630 Oxford, England [br] English mathematician who invented common, or Briggsian, logarithms and whose writings led to their …   Biographical history of technology

  • Briggs, Henry — ► (1561 1630) Matemático inglés. Introdujo, en colaboración con Napier, los logaritmos decimales …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • BRIGGS, HENRY —    a distinguished English mathematician; first Savilian professor at Oxford; made an important improvement on the system of logarithms, which was accepted by Napier, the inventor, and is the system now in use (1561 1631) …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Briggs — Briggs, Henry …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • BRIGGS (H.) — BRIGGS HENRY (1561 1630) Mathématicien anglais dont le nom est attaché à la découverte des logarithmes décimaux (appelés aussi logarithmes vulgaires ou briggsiens). Le caractère instrumental de ce nouvel outil mathématique lui valut une large et… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Henry Briggs — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Briggs. Henry Briggs Naissance Février 1556 Warley Wood (Angleterre) Décès 26 janvier 1630 Oxford (Angleterre) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Henry Briggs — Henry Briggs, Familienname auch Brigde oder Brigs, (* Februar 1561[1] in Warleywood bei Halifax (West Yorkshire); † 26. Januar 1630 in Oxford) war ein englischer Mathematiker. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Schriften …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Henry Briggs — Nacimiento Febrero de 1561 Warley wood, Yorkshire, Inglaterra Fallecimiento 26 de Enero de 1630, a la edad de 68 años Oxford, Inglaterra Residencia Inglaterra …   Wikipedia Español

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