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The History of the University of Oxford: Volume IV Seventeenth-Century Oxford$
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Nicholas Tyacke

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780199510146

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199510146.001.0001

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The Mathematical Sciences and New Philosophies

The Mathematical Sciences and New Philosophies

(p.358) (p.359) 6 The Mathematical Sciences and New Philosophies
The History of the University of Oxford: Volume IV Seventeenth-Century Oxford

Mordechai Feingold

Oxford University Press

Shortly after turning eighty, the Savilian professor of geometry John Wallis penned his apologia pro vita sua, in the course of which he indicated that during his student days at Cambridge University mathematics was hardly considered a proper university subject and experimental philosophy was nowhere to be found. Another octogenarian, Thomas Hobbes, recalled in his autobiography an Oxford system of education based on incomprehensible logic and sterile physics. For his part, John Locke regaled his admirers with how he, too, had misspent his time at Oxford, the upshot of which was that he was to lay the blame for his lack of application on the reigning tyranny of Aristotle. These and similar recollections need to be taken seriously in any historical study. In their haste to judge the universities as unenlightened institutions, incapable of contributing appreciably to the intellectual formation of great thinkers, scholars fail to realize that deprecatory expressions by aged alumni often recall events after a lifetime devoted to extending the frontiers of their respective fields.

Keywords:   Cambridge University, Oxford University, John Locke, mathematics, philosophy, Thomas Hobbes, John Wallis, alumni, curriculum

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