JONES, WILLIAM (1675?-1749), mathematician

Name: William Jones
Date of birth: 1675?
Date of death: 1749
Spouse: Mary Jones (née Nix)
Child: William Jones
Parent: Elizabeth George (née Rowland)
Parent: John George
Gender: Male
Occupation: mathematician
Area of activity: Science and Mathematics
Author: Robert Thomas Jenkins

Born at Merddyn, Llanfihangel Tre'r Beirdd, Anglesey (the next farm to the birthplace of Lewis, Richard, and William Morris); the family removed to Tyddyn-bach, Llanbabo, and when the father died the mother went to live at Clymwr in the same parish — hence the Morris family's’ nickname, ‘Pabo,’ for William Jones. The father was John George; the mother was Elizabeth Rowland, of the family of Bodwigan, Llanddeusant (J. E. Griffith, Pedigrees, 3), and Elizabeth's mother was of the family of Tregaian and therefore, according to Lewis Morris (Add. M.L., p. 190), related to the Morris family's father and mother. His son's biography says that William Jones was born in 1680, but the D.N.B.'s ‘1675’ is more likely. He was at school at Llanfechell, and showed such skill as a calculator that his landlord (Bulkeley of Baron Hill) sent him up to London; after a period in a countinghouse there he became instructor on a man-of-war, and attracted the notice of admiral Anson. Tutorships in great families followed; two of his pupils, Thomas Parker (earl of Macclesfield) and Philip Yorke (earl Hardwicke) became Lords Chancellor. Macclesfield afterwards took him as tutor to his son, and Shirburn castle became Jones's home for many years. He lost heavily when his banker failed, but his friendship with the great brought him profitable sinecures. He married Mary Nix; they had two sons and a daughter. He died in London, 3 July 1749. His mathematical works (on which see D.N.B.) were very highly esteemed; he was a friend of Halley's and of Newton's (some of whose works he edited), was F.R.S. in 1712, and became vice-president of the Society.

It will be seen that Jones's career fell outside Wales, and his contacts with Welsh concerns were casual, though none the less interesting. It seems that Richard alone of the Morris family knew him personally, though Lewis in 1749 wrote to him. But in 1747 (Morris Letters, 129), we find Richard suggesting that Jones should propose Lewis for membership of the Royal Society — a service which he had already rendered to Moses Williams (1685 - 1742). When Richard Morris's edition of the Welsh Bible appeared (1746), it included two maps, ‘a gift of William Jones, F.R.S., to the Welsh people.’ On the death of Moses Williams, his widow sold his books and manuscripts to his friend William Jones, and Richard Morris took on the cataloguing of the manuscripts. But when Jones in his turn died, the manuscripts went, under his will, to his pupil the 2nd earl Macclesfield, who refused Morris further access to them. The earl talked of giving them to the British Museum, but in fact they remained at Shirburn for some 150 years — Angharad Llwyd tells us that she too offered to complete the catalogue but was told that the manuscripts ‘were not worth the trouble.’ But in 1899 they were bought by Sir John Williams and catalogued by J. Gwenogvryn Evans — they are today (with Richard Morris's notes and indexes) in the National Library of Wales.

William Jones's youngest child, Sir WILLIAM JONES (1746 - 1794), gained very great fame as a philologist and an authority on Hindu law; there is a biography (Memoirs of Sir W. Jones, 1804) by lord Teignmouth, and a full article in D.N.B. He was born 28 September 1746, married Anna, sister of dean W. D. Shipley, and died 27 April 1794 at Calcutta. He spoke no Welsh, and though he had a slight reading knowledge of it he never studied it systematically — a witty British ambassador in Paris presented him to the French king as ‘a man who knew every language except his own.’ He was a member of the Cymmrodorion in 1778, and a letter written by Richard Morris junior from India in 1785 (Add. M.L., p. 781) reveals that he was discussing with William Jones the project of publishing Lewis Morris's Celtic Remains; but Angharad Llwyd quotes from a letter of his (1790) to Morris, which avers that ‘though, as a Cymmrodor, he was keenly interested in the antiquities and literature of Wales, yet he had not a minute to spare for them.’



Published date: 1959

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