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William Laud

(1573 - 1645)
Profession: Statesman
English priest; archbishop of Canterbury from 1633.

William Laud (October 7, 1573 – January 10, 1645) was Archbishop of Canterbury and a fervent supporter of King Charles I of England, whom he encouraged to believe in divine right. His support for Charles, absolute monarchy, and his persecuting of opposing views led to his beheading in the midst of the English Civil War. The beheading of Charles occurred four years later.

Laud was born in Reading, Berkshire, of comparatively low origins, his father having been a cloth merchant (a fact of which he was to remain sensitive throughout his career). He was educated at Reading School and, through a White Scholarship, St. John's College, Oxford.

On April 5, 1601, he entered the Church, and his Catholic tendencies and antipathy to Puritanism, combined with his intellectual and organizational brilliance, soon made him a name. At that time, the Calvinist party was strong in the Church, and Laud's affirmation of Apostolic succession was unpopular in many quarters. In 1605, somewhat against his will, he obliged his patron, Charles Blount, 1st Earl of Devon, by performing his marriage service to a divorcée.

He continued to rise through the ranks of the clergy, becoming President of St John's College in 1611; Prebendary of Lincoln in 1614, and Archdeacon of Huntingdon in 1615. He was consecrated Bishop of St David's in 1622, translated Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1626, and Bishop of London in 1628. Thanks to patrons who included George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, and the king himself, he reached the highest position the Church of England had to offer, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1633. At the same time, he was prominent in government, taking the king's line and that of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford in all important matters. It is believed that he wrote the controversial Declaration of Sports issued by King Charles in 1633.

In 1630, Laud was elected as Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and became much more closely involved in the running of the university than many of his predecessors had been. His most significant contribution was the creation of a new set of statutes for the university, a task completed in 1636. Laud served as the fifth Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin between 1633 and 1645.

The famous phrase "give great praise to God, and little Laud to the devil" is a warning to Charles attributed to the official court jester or "fool" Archie Armstrong.

Laud was a sincere Anglican and loyal Englishman, who must have been frustrated at the charges of Popery levelled against him by the Puritan element in the Church. Whereas Strafford saw the political dangers of Puritanism, Laud saw the threat to the episcopacy. But the Puritans themselves felt threatened: the Counter-Reformation was succeeding abroad, and the Thirty Years' War was not progressing to the advantage of the Protestants. It was inevitable that in this climate, Laud's aggressive high church policy was seen as a sinister development.

Laud's policy was influenced by another aspect of his character: his desire to impose total uniformity on the Church. This, too, was driven by a sincere belief that this was the duty of his office, but to those of even slightly differing views it came as persecution. Perhaps this had the unintended consequence of garnering support for the most implacable opponents of the Anglican compromise. In 1637, William Prynne and two others were sentenced to mutilation (removal of ears and branding on both cheeks) for the crime of seditious libel.

His intolerance towards the Presbyterians extended to Scotland, where it led to the Covenanter movement and the Bishops' Wars. The Long Parliament of 1640 accused him of treason, resulting in his imprisonment in the Tower of London, where he remained throughout the early stages of the English Civil War. In the spring of 1644, he was brought to trial, but it ended without being able to reach a verdict. The parliament took up the issue, and eventually passed a bill of attainder under which he was beheaded on January 10, 1645 on Tower Hill, notwithstanding being granted a royal pardon.

Oliver Cromwell

(1599 - 1658)
Profession: Statesman
Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire. He studied at Cambridge, and in 1628 he was first elected to Parliament.

Cromwell opposed the absolute power of the crown, and when war broke out he became a military organizer for the Parliamentary forces. Realizing the inferior quality of the rebel troops, he organized a 'godly' regiment - the 'Ironsides'. The Ironsides were men of strong convictions who fought with religious enthusiasm.

After the Civil War and the execution of king Charles I, Cromwell became first chairman of the the new republic. He suppressed an insurrection in Ireland (1650) with a severity remembered by the Irish Catholics with bitterness. In the same year he defeated a Royalist army in Scotland, and he fought the Dutch in several naval battles.

In 1653 Cromwell dissolved Parliament and he became Lord protector of the new puritanical republic. As Lord protector he concluded the Anglo-Dutch War, sent an expeditionary force to the Spanish West Indies and destroyed the Spanish fleet at Teneriffe.

In the fall of 1658 Cromwell died, and England fell away from his attempt to realize a puritanical commonwealth of free men

John Milton

(1608 - 1674)
Profession: Writer
English poet

Milton was born in London on December 9, 1608, and educated at Saint Paul's School and Christ's College, University of Cambridge. He intended to become a clergyman in the Church of England, but growing dissatisfaction with the state of the Anglican clergy together with his own developing poetic interests led him to abandon this purpose.

He became totally blind in about 1652 and thereafter carried on his literary work helped by an assistant; with the aid also of the poet Andrew Marvell.
John Milton's work is marked by cosmic themes and lofty religious idealism; it reveals an astonishing breadth of learning and command of the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew classics. His blank verse is of remarkable variety and richness, so skillfully modulated and flexible that it has been compared to organ tones.

Paradise Lost is considered Milton's masterpiece and one of the greatest poems in world literature. In its 12 cantos he tells the story of the fall of Adam in a context of cosmic drama and profound speculations. The poet's announced aim was to "justify the ways of God to men." The poem was written with soaring imagination and far-ranging intellectual grasp in his most forceful and exalted style. Paradise Regained, which tells of human salvation through Christ, is a shorter and lesser work, although still one of great richness and strength. Milton is often considered the greatest English poet after Shakespeare

John Bunyan

(1628 - 1688)
Profession: Writer
A Baptist, he was imprisoned in Bedford in 1660-72 for unlicensed preaching and wrote Grace Abounding in 1666, which describes his early spiritual life. During a second jail sentence 1676-77 he started to write The Pilgrim's Progress, the first part of which was published in 1678. This allegorical story of Christian's spiritual quest is written in straightforward language with fervour and imagination. Bunyan was born in Elstow, near Bedford. At 16, he was drafted into the Parliamentary army to fight in the Civil War. His military career was brief, and in 1647 he returned to Elstow.

In 1649 he married a religious woman. One of the books she brought with her, The Plaine Mans Path-way to Heaven, exerted a powerful influence on Bunyan; the origin of specific images, such as the Man with the Muck Rake in The Pilgrim's Progress, have been traced to it. At this period Bunyan experienced religious doubts and struggles. He suffered a strong conviction of sin, which attached itself to his mild vices of swearing, dancing, and Sunday games, but after his conversion experience and joining the Baptists 1653 he became more cheerful and began preaching in neighbouring villages and publishing religious pamphlets.

In 1660 he was committed to Bedford county jail for unlawful preaching, where he remained for 12 years, refusing all offers of release conditional on his not preaching again. Set free 1672, he was elected pastor of the Bedford congregation, but in 1676 he was again arrested and imprisoned for six months in the jail on Bedford Bridge, where he began The Pilgrim's Progress. The book was an instant success, and a second part followed 1684. Other works include The Life and Death of Mr Badman 1680 and The Holy War 1682.

John Locke

(1632 - 1704)
Profession: Statesman
English Philosopher

Locke was born in Wrington, Somerset, SW England. He studied at Oxford, and in 1667 he became am adviser to Lord Ashley, later first Earl of Shaftesbury. He retired to France, but after Shaftesbury's death in 1683 he fled to Holland, returning to England in 1689, where he became commissioner of appeals until 1704.

Locke's philosophical and political theories widely influenced the thinkers of his day, and are still considered important. To secure the personal liberties of the citizens Locke provided the theoretical justification for the separations of the powers of the state into legislative and executive branches.

In his major philosphical work 'Essay Concerning Human Understanding', he accepted the possibility of rational demonstration of moral principles and the existence of God, but he insisted that all beliefs depend for their justification ultimately upon experience - a doctrine that was the real starting point of British Empiricism.

Sir Christopher Wren

(1632 - 1723)
Profession: Architect
English architect, scientist, and mathematician

Wren was born in East Knoyle, Wiltshire, on October 20, 1632, the son of a clergyman. He was a precocious child with remarkable talent for science and mathematics and had already invented numerous scientific devices before the age of 14, when he was admitted to Wadham College, University of Oxford. While still a student, he made several original contributions in mathematics, winning immediate acclaim. In 1657, after serving as a fellow of All Souls College at Oxford, he was appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham College in London. Three years later he returned to Oxford to accept the post of Savilian professor of astronomy.
Already famous as a scientist and mathematician, Wren started his career as an architect at the age of 29. Until then he had displayed no practical interest in architecture, but his reputation brought him an unsolicited court appointment as assistant to the surveyor general in charge of the repair and upkeep of public buildings. Thereafter Wren devoted himself to the study of architecture with increasing enthusiasm. His earliest work included designs for several new structures at Oxford and at Cambridge.

The fire of 1666 burned the oldest part of London. Within a few days Wren submitted a brilliant plan for rebuilding the area. The plan anticipated many of the features of modern city planning, but it was rejected because of property disputes. In 1667 he was appointed deputy surveyor general for the reconstruction of Saint Paul's Cathedral, numerous parish churches, and other buildings destroyed by the fire. Two years later he received the coveted post of surveyor of the royal works, a position that gave him control of all government building in Britain. He held this position for the following 50 years.

Wren's designs for St. Paul's Cathedral were accepted in 1675, and he superintended the building of the vast baroque structure until its completion in 1710. It ranks as one of the world's most imposing domed edifices. He also designed more than 50 churches, many of them, such as Saint Mary-le-Bow (1671-77) in London, famous for their towers and graceful spires. They include Saint Stephen's, Walbrook; Saint Clement Dane's, the Strand; and Saint James's, Picadilly. Among his secular buildings still in existence are the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford (1664-69), the Trinity College library at Cambridge (1677-92), and the facade for Hampton Court Palace (1689-94). He also built the Chelsea Hospital (1682), the Greenwich Observatory (1675), and the Greenwich Hospital (1696).

Wren's architectural achievements have obscured his extraordinary contributions in science. Among his inventions were a weather clock comparable to the modern barometer and new methods of engraving and etching. His biological experiments, in which he injected fluids into the veins of animals, were important in developing blood transfusion.

Wren was knighted in 1673; he subsequently served for many years as a member of Parliament. One of the founders of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, he became its president in 1680. He died in London, on February 25, 1723, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. Near his tomb is a tablet inscribed with his epitaph, which ends with the following famous words: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice ("If you seek his monument, look about you").He is considered England’s foremost architect. His work, in a simple version of the baroque style, displayed great inventiveness in design and engineering. The Wren style strongly influenced English architecture in the Georgian period and its colonial version in America.

Samuel Pepys

(1633 - 1703)
Profession: Writer
English naval administrator and diarist.

His Diary 1660-69 is a unique record of the daily life of the period, the historical events of the Restoration, the manners and scandals of the court, naval administration, and Pepys's own interests, weaknesses, and intimate feelings. Written in shorthand, it was not deciphered until 1825.

Pepys entered the Navy Office 1660 and was secretary to the Admiralty 1672-79. He was imprisoned 1679 in the Tower of London on suspicion of being connected with the Popish Plot. In 1684 he was reinstated as secretary to the Admiralty, but finally resigned his post after the 1688 Revolution. He published Memoires of the Navy 1690. Pepys abandoned writing his diary because he believed, mistakenly, that his eyesight was about to fail - in fact, it continued to serve him for 30 or more years of active life.

The original manuscript of the Diary, preserved in Cambridge together with other papers, is in six volumes, containing more than 3,000 pages. It is closely written in cipher (a form of shorthand). Highlights include his accounts of the Great Plague of London 1665, the Fire of London 1666, and the sailing up the Thames of the Dutch fleet 1667.

Pepys was born in London, the son of John Pepys, a tailor. He was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Magdalene College, Cambridge. In 1659, he entered the Exchequer as a clerk, becoming clerk of the council the same year. In 1660 he became a clerk of the Privy Seal and `clerk of the King's ships´. He rose to become secretary of the Admiralty 1672-79, where he carried out drastic and far-reaching reforms. He was also a member of Parliament for Castle Rising 1673, exchanging his constituency for that of Harwich 1679.An Admiralty minute of 1805 spoke of Pepys as `a man of extraordinary knowledge, of great talent and the most indefatigable in industry

Sir Isaac Newton

(1642 - 1727)
Profession: Scientist
Isaac Newton is one of the greatest names in the history of human thought.

Newton was born in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, UK. He studied at Cambridge. Legend has it that the fall of an apple initiated the train of thought that led to the law of gravitation. As professor of mathematics at Cambridge he worked on his famous Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, which supplied a complete proof of the law of gravitation. This law explained celestial motions, the tides, and terrestial gravitation, and is regarded as one of the greatest scientific achievements.

He deveolped a new kind of mathematics known as the calculus. He also invented the reflecting telescope, and discovered that white light is a combination of all colors by using prisms. Newton sat in parliament on two occasions, was elected President of the Royal Society in 1703, and was knighted in 1705.

Samuel Johnson

(1709 - 1784)
Profession: Writer
English lexicographer, author, and critic

Dr Johnson was a brilliant conversationalist and the dominant figure in 18th-century London literary society. His Dictionary, published 1755, remained authoritative for over a century, and is still remarkable for the vigour of its definitions. In 1764 he founded the Literary Club, whose members included the painter Joshua Reynolds, the political philosopher Edmund Burke, the dramatist Oliver Goldsmith, the actor David Garrick, and James Boswell, Johnson's biographer.

Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, the son of a bookseller, Johnson was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he distinguished himself but was prevented by lack of money from taking a degree. He is buried in Westminster Abbey and his house in Gough Square, London, is preserved as a museum.

James Brindley

(1716 - 1772)
Profession: Engineer
British canal builder.

He was the first to employ tunnels and aqueducts extensively, in order to reduce the number of locks on a direct-route canal. His 580 km / 360 miles of canals included the Bridgewater (Manchester-Liverpool) and Grand Union (Manchester-Potteries) canals.

Brindley was born near Buxton, Derbyshire. He set up a machine shop in Staffordshire and began constructing flint and silk mills. He was virtually illiterate and made all calculations in his head.

In 1759 Brindley was engaged by the Duke of Bridgewater to construct a canal to transport coal to Manchester from the duke's mines at Worsley. Brindley's revolutionary scheme for this included a subterranean channel and an aqueduct over the river Irwell. He constructed impervious banks by puddling clay, and the canal simultaneously acted as a mine drain. The success of this project established him as the leading canal builder in the UK.

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