Lyons, Israel (1739-1775) (DNB00)

LYONS, ISRAEL, the younger (1739–1775), mathematician and botanist, son of Israel Lyons the elder [q. v.], born at Cambridge in 1739, displayed in early life a great inclination to learning, and particularly to mathematics. Dr. Robert Smith, master of Trinity College, offered to put him to school at his own expense, but he went only for a day or two, saying he could learn more by himself in an hour than with his master in a day. In 1755 he began to study botany, in which he became well versed, and he collected large materials for a ‘Flora Cantabrigiensis.’ He afterwards published ‘A Treatise of Fluxions’ (London, 1758, 8vo), with a dedication to his friend, Dr. Smith. In 1763 there appeared at London in 8vo his ‘Fasciculus Plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium quæ post Raium observatæ fuere.’ In July 1764 he delivered a course of lectures on botany at Oxford, at the instance of Mr. (afterwards Sir Joseph) Banks, whom he first instructed in that science. In December 1770 he advertised proposals to publish by subscription a correct map of Cambridgeshire, from an actual survey taken by himself with very accurate instruments of the best construction (Cambridge Chronicle, 22 Dec. 1770).

In 1773 he was appointed by the board of longitude to accompany as principal astronomer Captain Phipps (afterwards Lord Mulgrave) in his voyage to the North Pole, and he drew up the tables annexed to the account of that expedition. He was granted an annual income of 100l. for calculating the ‘Nautical Almanac,’ and frequently received presents from the board of longitude for his inventions. He was married at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, in March 1774 to Phœbe, daughter of Newman Pearson of Over, Cambridgeshire. He died at his house in Rathbone Place, London, on 1 May 1775 (Gent. Mag. 1775, i. 254).

Lyons could read Latin and French well, but wrote the former language indifferently. He was a student of English history, and was particularly well read in the old chronicles. He was, according to Cole, very debauched (Addit. MS. 5875, f. 96). His ‘Calculations in Spherical Trigonometry abridged’ are in the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ vol. lxi. art. 46, and his name appears on the title-page of John Seally's ‘Complete Geographical Dictionary,’ 2 vols. London, 1787, 4to, the astronomical portion of which was taken from his papers. He left many valuable notes and observations for an edition of the ‘Miscellaneous Works of Dr. Edmund Halley, Astronomer Royal,’ which he had prepared for the press with the sanction of the Philosophical Society.

[Ann. Register, 1775, p. 128; Cambridge Chron. 28 July 1764, and 19 March 1774; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, iv. 381; Gorham's Memoirs of Thomas Martyn, p. 122; Gough's Brit. Topography, i. 202; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 1423; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 327, 419, iii. 661, viii. 208.]

T. C.