Henry Briggs (mathematician)

Henry Briggs, surname also Brigde or brigs, ( born February 1561 Warleywood in Halifax ( West Yorkshire ), † January 26, 1630 in Oxford ) was an English mathematician.


Briggs studied since 1577 in Cambridge, was 1581 Bachelor of Arts, 1585 Master of Arts in 1588 and a Fellow of St John 's College, Cambridge. In 1592 he was an examiner for the subject of mathematics, soon after lecturer on medical lectures ( " Reader of the Physic Lecture founded by Dr Linacre " ) at the Royal College of Physicians of London, and in 1596 professor of geometry at the time a few years old Gresham College London.

At the time of Briggs the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge had largely lost their scientific significance and were in medieval notions of science ( Aristotle, Galen, etc.) stopped. As an emerging naval power but England desperately needed the dissemination and development of advanced mathematical techniques for navigation, so that Thomas Gresham founded a college in which various professors 'in their mother tongue' - that is in the English language - should give public lectures on modern themes.

In Gresham College Briggs formed the nucleus of a circle of modern Copernikanern, among them the famous navigator and Applied mathematician Edward Wright, the natural philosopher William Gilbert, the popularizer of scientific ideas Blundeville Thomas and others. The result is Gilbert's epochal work " De Magnet" on which Wright and Briggs had some share. During this time, Briggs has dealt extensively with issues of navigation. Some of his work can be found in Wright's "On Certain Errors in Navigation" and in Blundevilles books.

When in 1614 John Napier published a work on logarithms, Briggs immediately recognized their importance. Even with a visit to Napier in Scotland in 1615, he proposed to put for the logarithms of the base 10 is based. Therefore, the logarithm to the base 10 also hot Briggssche logarithms or common logarithms. From then on, Briggs worked intensively with the computation of logarithms, and in less than seven years he appointed 30,000 logarithms to 14 decimal places. His actual achievements in this area are in a groundbreaking new method of calculating logarithms on continued extraction of roots. Here he has established not only the calculus of finite differences, but also discovered Newton's binomial theorem for the special case of exponent 0.5.

Meanwhile, it was at the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge efforts to rid these institutions of the medieval crusting. In Oxford donated Sir Henry Savile to this end, two chairs, and indeed for geometry and astronomy.

1619 Briggs was first Savilian Professor of Geometry at Merton College, Oxford. In addition to the work on the logarithms he has dealt with the cartography of North America, with shipbuilding plans and the construction of a canal.

Henry Briggs was buried in the chapel of Merton College. Typical of a Puritan is the entirely unadorned grave plate, which only bears the inscription " Henricus Briggius ". He was certainly one of the greatest mathematicians of his time and should not be overestimated as carriers and disseminators of modern science ideas in England.

The lunar crater Briggs is named after him.


  • Thomas Blundeville: The Theoriques of the seuen Planets, shewing all diuerse Their motions, and all other Accidents, called Passions, thereunto BELONGING. Whereunto is added by the Said Master Blundeuile, a breefe Extract by him made ​​, of Magnus his Theoriques, for the better vnderstanding of the Prutenicall Tables, to calculate thereby the diuerse motions of the seuen Planets. There is therefore added hereto, The making, description, and vse, two of the most ingenious and necessarie Instruments for Sea- men, to find out therebye the latitude of any place vpon the Sea or Land, in the darkest night did is, without the helpe of Sunne, Moone, or rigidity. First inuented by M. Doctor Gilbert, a most excellent Philosopher, and one of the ordinarie Physicians to her Maiestie: and now here plainely set down in our mother tongue by Master Blundeuile. London 1602. ( Contains Briggsche Polhöhentafel and its description and calculation to a device for determining the magnetic inclination to Gilbert. )
  • Edward Wright: Certaine Errors in Navigation Detected and Corrected with Many additions thatwere not in the former edition as appeareth in the next pages. London 1602. ( Includes additional panels for navigation, which were calculated by Briggs. )
  • Logarithmorum CHILIAS fine. 1618th ( first performance of his new logarithms )
  • Arithmetica logarithmica. London 1624th ( logarithms of numbers from 1 to 20,000 and from 90.000 to 100.000 with 14 decimal places)
  • Trigonometria Britannica. Gouda 1633rd ( table of logarithms of sines and tangents through all the hundreds of a degree to 14 decimal places, along with a table of sine, tangent and secant )