Aubrey and Mathematics

Aubrey was keen to promote the teaching of mathematics in schools. He was also a donor of mathematical books to various institutions. Aubrey owned a large number of mathematical books, often including copies containing manuscript annotations by famous mathematicians. Indeed, in his bankruptcy he was forced to sell some to his friend Robert Hooke to raise cash. But a few years before his death, Aubrey was still able to present to Gloucester Hall (now Worcester College) an impressive set of mathematical books along with three of his own manuscript mathematical collections. Why Aubrey gifted almost fifty texts in this one area is unclear, but he may have wanted to make Oxford proposals for a Greek College look more attractive.

One of Aubrey’s more remarkable proposals was his ‘Idea of Education of Young Gentlemen’. Aubrey was convinced that educational reform had to start in the schools before the universities, and nowhere more so than in the teaching of mathematics. In his chapter on the subject, Aubrey proposed not only that pupils should be furnished with their own personal mathematical tools, but also that the ideal classroom should contain a set of instruments. These, Aubrey argued, would encourage children to learn, because they would make learning fun. Darkrooms and the camera obscura, he said, ‘will set them agog’.

(All images protected by copyright. Please do not use without permission.)

Back to top