Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bainbridge, John

BAINBRIDGE, JOHN, M.D. (1582–1643), physician and astronomer, son of Robert and Anne Bainbridge, was born at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire. He received his education at the grammar school of this little town, and at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where his kinsman, Dr. Joseph Hall, afterwards bishop of Norwich, was his tutor, and where he took the degrees B.A. (1603), M.A. (1607), and M.D. (1614). For some years after leaving the university he kept a school and practised medicine at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, occupying what little leisure he had in following up an early taste for mathematics, especially astronomy. He next removed to London, living 'near All-hallows in the Wall,' and was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians (6 Nov. 1618). In 1619 Sir Henry Savile, whose notice he had attracted by publishing an astronomical description of the comet of the previous year, appointed him to the Savilian professorship which he had just founded at Oxford, and Bainbridge entered Merton College as a master commoner. In the following year he was incorporated doctor of medicine at Oxford, and in 1631 and 1635 was respectively appointed junior and senior reader of Linacre's lecture. With the view to publishing correct editions of the Arabian astronomers, in accordance with the statutes of his professorship, at the age of forty he began the study of Arabic. Among his friends at Oxford was Archbishop Usher, at whose instance he wrote the treatise 'Canicularia,' and to whom he bequeathed his unpublished works.

Speaking of his first astronomical publications, the writer of his life in the 'Biographia Britannica' says with reason that Bainbridge seems to have given in a little too much to the vulgar notion of comets being presages of some impending calamity; but it is only fair to add that he must have quite outgrown such superstition, for the year before his death he wrote 'Antiprognosticon,' in which he points out 'the vanity of astrological predictions grounded upon the grand conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter,' which, he says, 'will recur in almost every twenty years agreeably to the stated laws of nature.' Bainbridge died at his house opposite to Merton College 3 Nov. 1643, and his body was taken to the public schools and an oration pronounced over it by the university orator. He was buried near the altar in Merton College Church, where there is a monument and a long Latin epitaph to his memory.

Bainbridge's published works are: 1. 'An Astronomical Description of the Comet of 1618,' London, 1619. 2. 'Procli Sphæra et Ptolomæi de Hypothesibus Planetarum,' to which was added Ptolemy's 'Canon Regnorum,' 1620. 3. 'Canicularia,' published after his death by Mr. Greaves, Oxford, 1648. He left a number of manuscripts, some of which have been preserved with those of Archbishop Usher in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. These include astronomical, mathematical, and chronological collections, and calculations, a catalogue of his mathematical instruments, and his correspondence with Savile, Usher, and others.

[Munk's College of Physicians, i. 175; Smith's Vitæ quorund. Erudit. et Illustr. Virorum, London, 1703; Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), iii. 67; Biographia Britannica; Nichols's Hist. of Leicestershire, vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 631; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. iv. 594.]

P. B.-A.