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

RYLEY, JOHN (1747–1815), mathematician, was the eldest son of Samuel Ryley, a farmer and clothier, of Alcoates, near Pudsey, Yorkshire, where he was born on 30 Nov. 1747. He received a village education, and was then employed at home as husbandman and cloth manufacturer, devoting his leisure to mathematics with such success that in 1774 he was appointed mathematical master at Drighlington grammar school. Here he studied fluxions and the higher parts of algebra. In 1775 he opened a school of his own at Pudsey, where he married Miss Dawson of Topcliffe. In 1776 he became schoolmaster of Beeston, and soon began to contribute solutions of problems to the ‘Ladies' Diary,’ winning many prizes. In 1789 Ryley was made headmaster of the Bluecoat school in Leeds, retaining the post till death. He also taught (about 1800) in the grammar school, and took private pupils, several of whom distinguished themselves at Cambridge. Many eminent mathematicians visited him. He died of gout on 22 April 1815. He had three sons and four daughters.

Ryley was a self-made man, but, though his ‘countenance was repulsive, from his fixed habits of close thinking,’ he was of benevolent character. In his hasty and nervous manner of speech, as well as in his heavy build, he somewhat resembled Dr. Johnson. Besides being a very successful teacher of mathematics, he was the first editor of the ‘Leeds Correspondent,’ 1815, a literary, mathematical, and philosophical miscellany. He also contributed to many other mathematical periodicals for nearly half a century, and compiled ‘The Leeds Guide,’ containing a history of Leeds and adjacent villages, 1806 and 1808 (now very scarce).

[Leeds Correspondent, ii. 97, 242; Taylor's Leeds Worthies; Rayner's Hist. of Pudsey. See also Leeds Intelligencer, April 1815, and Pudsey Almanac for 1873.]

W. F. S.