Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ludlam, William

LUDLAM, WILLIAM (1717–1788), mathematician, born at Leicester in 1717, was elder son of Richard Ludlam (1680–1728), who graduated M.B. at St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1702, and practised medicine at Leicester. Thomas Ludlam [q. v.] was his youngest brother. His mother was Anne, daughter of William Drury of Nottingham. His uncle, Sir George Ludlam, was chamberlain of the city of London, and died in 1726. One of his sisters became stepmother of Joseph Cradock [q. v.], another married Gerrard Andrewes, and was mother of Gerrard Andrewes [q. v.], dean of Canterbury.

Ludlam, after attending Leicester grammar school, became scholar of his father's college, St. John's, Cambridge, and was elected to a fellowship in 1744. He matriculated in 1734 and graduated B.A. 1738, M.A. 1742, and B.D. 1749. In 1749 he was instituted to the vicarage of Norton-by-Galby in Leicestershire, on the nomination of Bernard Whalley. From 1754 to 1757 he was junior dean of his college, and from 1767 to 1769 he was Linacre lecturer in physic. In 1760 he unsuccessfully contested the Lucasian chair of mathematics with Edward Waring. In 1765 he was one of ‘three gentlemen skilled in mechanics’ appointed to report to the board of longitude on the merits of John Harrison's watch [see Harrison, John, 1693–1776]. His report is given in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1765, pt. i. p. 412. He enjoyed considerable reputation at the time for his skill in practical mechanics and astronomy, as well as for his mathematical lectures.

In 1768, having accepted from his college the rectory of Cockfield in Suffolk, thereby vacating his fellowship, Ludlam removed to Leicester, where he spent the remaining twenty years of his life in his favourite studies. At first he lived with his brother Thomas in Wigston's Hospital, but in 1772 he married. In E. T. Vaughan's ‘Life of Thomas Robinson,’ who was then vicar of St. Mary's, Leicester, William Ludlam appears as a man of independent character, sound judgment, and pungent wit. He died on 16 March 1788, and is commemorated in a tablet on the south wall of St. Mary's. The ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1788, pt. i. p. 461 chronicles the sale by auction of his instruments and models, which are said to have been very valuable.

Of a numerous family only two sons survived him; of these the elder, Thomas Ludlam (1775–1810), after serving an apprenticeship to a printer, entered the service of the Sierra Leone Company, and going out to the colony became a member of the council, and finally governor. He retired from the latter office in 1807, when the company's rights were ceded to the British government, and was commissioned to explore the neighbouring coast of Africa. He died on board the Crocodile frigate at Sierra Leone 25 July 1810 (Gent. Mag. 1810, ii. 386–7).

Ludlam appears to have contributed in early life to the ‘Monthly Review,’ but most of his writings fall within the period of his residence at Leicester. His ‘Rudiments of Mathematics’ (1785) became a standard Cambridge text-book, passed through several editions, and was still in vogue in 1815 (Wordsworth, Univ. Studies, p. 76). His ‘Essay on Newton's Second Law of Motion’ (1780), suggesting instead thereof an explicit statement of the physical independence of forces, was rejected by the Royal Society. His other publications were:

  1. ‘Astronomical Observations made in St. John's College, 1767 and 1768, with an Account of Several Astronomical Instruments,’ 1769.
  2. ‘Two Mathematical Essays; the first on Ultimate Ratios, the second on the Power of the Wedge,’ 1770.
  3. ‘Directions for the Use of Hadley's Quadrant, with Remarks on the Construction of that Instrument,’ 1771.
  4. ‘The Theory of Hadley's Quadrant, or Rules for the Construction and Use of that Instrument demonstrated,’ 1771.
  5. ‘An Introduction to and Notes on Mr. Bird's Method of Dividing Astronomical Instruments,’ 1786.
  6. ‘Mathematical Essays on (i.) Properties of the Cycloid, (ii.) Def. i.; Cor. i. Prop. x.; Cor. i. Prop. xiii. of Book I. of Newton's Principia,’ 1787.

He contributed to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ in 1772 (pt. i. p. 562) ‘A Short Account of Church Organs,’ and in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ of the Royal Society appear the following papers by him: ‘Account of a New-constructed Balance for the Woollen Manufacture’ (lv. 205), 1765; ‘Principal Properties of the Engine for Turning Ovals in Wood or Metal and Drawing Ovals on Paper’ (lxx. 378), 1780; ‘Observations on the Transit of Venus and Eclipse of the Sun at Leicester, June 1769’ (lix. 236); ‘Occultation of ζ Tauri’ (lx. 355), 1770; ‘Determination of Latitude of Leicester’ (lxv. 366), 1775; ‘Eclipse of the Sun at Leicester, 1778’ (lxviii. 1019).

He was also the author of ‘Four Theological Essays on the Scripture Metaphors and other Subjects,’ 1787, and ‘Two Essays on Justification and the Influence of the Holy Spirit,’ 1788. These essays, with four others by him, are published in ‘Essays, Scriptural, Moral, and Logical,’ by W. and T. Ludlam, 2 vols. 1807. In the two essays which were issued in the year of his death appear strictures on certain passages in Joseph Milner's ‘Tract in Answer to Gibbon.’ Joseph Milner's brother Isaac, dean of Carlisle, replied after Ludlam was dead in the preface to an edition of Joseph Milner's sermons, 1801 (ci, cii), and handled Ludlam very severely. These strictures were answered in a second edition of the ‘Essays,’ 1809.

[Nichols's Leicestershire, i. 318; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 525, iii. 639, 640, viii. 414, ix. 87; Cradock's Memoirs, i. v, 2, 232, iv. 83, 90, 184, 280; Vaughan's Life of Robinson, pp. 68–73, 92, 93, 125, 134, 176, 326; Baker's Hist. of St. John's College, ed. Mayor, ii. 855, 1070; Gent. Mag. 1788, pt. i. p. 277; Athenæ Suffolcienses, Brit. Mus. MS. Addit. 19166, f. 208; St. John's College Register of College Officers; information kindly supplied by R. F. Scott, esq.]

C. P.