Richard of Swyneshed

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Oxford philosopher, fl. 134055; also known as Swineshead, or Suisseth, and sometimes confused with roger of swyneshed. Richard was a secular master, a native of the Lincoln Diocese, born probably in Swineshead, southeast of Lincoln. He was certainly a fellow of Merton College by 1344, and in 1349 was involved in the tumultuous election of John Wylyot to the chancellorship. On March 29, 1354, he was ordained deacon to the title of fellowship, and was still a member of the college in 1355. His fame rests mainly on the often-printed Liber calculationum, written before 1355. Within a few decades the author, whose name was lost in confusion, was known as "the Calculator." His renown was greater among mathematicians than among philosophers or humanists. The mathematician G. Cardano (150176) included him among the 12 greatest thinkers of all time; and leibniz wrote (1696): "I would also like to edit the writings of Suisset, commonly known as the Calculator, who introduced mathematics into scholastic philosophy." In scholastic thought his concern was not with traditional problems of Aristotelian physics, nor with linguistic problems of nominalism. Rather, it was with problems of proportionality in accelerated motion, density, rarity, gravity, heat, and other divisible qualities. His work prepared the way for infinitesimal calculus. see sci ence (in the middle ages).

Bibliography: p. duhem, Études sur Léonard de Vinci 3 v. (Paris 1955) 3:412417, 451460 and passim. m. clagett, The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages (Madison, Wis. 1959). a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, 3 v. (Oxford 195759) 3:183637.

[j. a. weisheipl]