Morland, Samuel

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated


(b. Sulhamstead Bannister, Berkshire, England, 1625; d. Hammersmith, Middlesex [now London], England, 30 December 1695)

mathematics, technology.

Morland was the son of Thomas Morland, rector of Sulhamstead Bannister, from which village Samuel Morland took his title when he was created baronet. He was educated at Winchester College from 1639 and at Magdalene College, Cambridge, from 1644. Elected a fellow of the college on 30 November 1649, he continued his studies of mathematics there until 1653.

From 1653 to the Restoration in 1660, Morland was deeply involved in politics. He was a supporter and associate of Oliver Cromwell, who employed him on two foreign embassies, to Sweden in 1653 and to the duke of Savoy in 1655, with the object of persuading him to grant amnesty to the Waldenses. Morland was finally successful and in 1658 he published a history of the Waldensian church.

Close association with the intrigues of Cromwell and John Thurloe and, in particular, knowledge of a plot to murder Charles II and his brother disgusted Morland with the Commonwealth cause; and he began working as an agent to promote the restoration of the monarchy. Despite serious charges brought against him, he was granted a full pardon by Charles II in 1660, knighted, and later in the same year was created a baronet. He was also appointed gentleman of the privy chamber, but he did not receive the financial help he had hoped for. From 1660 he devoted himself to experimental work with occasional support from the king, who named him “Master of Mechanicks” in 1681.

Morland was married five times and was survived by only one son, Samuel, who became the second and last baronet of the family. Morland became blind three years before his death and retired to Hammersmith, where he died on 30 December 1695.

Morland’s studies of mathematics and his inventiveness led him to make two “arithmetick instruments,” or hand calculators, with gear wheels operated by a stylus, for pedagogic use. His perpetual almanac was a concise form of pocket calendar, adapted for use on coin-sized disks, sundials and other instruments, and snuffboxes. A speaking trumpet, described in his treatise on the subject as a “tuba stentoro-phonica,” was another of his inventions; with it he estimated that a conversation could be carried on at a distance of three-quarters of a mile. It has recently been established that Morland also invented the balance barometer and the diagonal barometer.

Morland’s most important work was in the field of hydrostatics. There was much interest in the mid-seventeenth century in mechanical methods of raising water. Morland invented an apparatus using an airtight cistern from which air was expelled by a charge of gunpowder, the water below rising to fill the vacuum thus produced. The London Gazette for 30 July 1681 describes how at Windsor Castle, “Sir Samuel Morland, with the strength of eight men, forced the water (mingled with a Vessel of Red Wine to make it more visible) in a continuous stream, at the rate of above sixty Barrels an hour, from the Engine below at the Parkpale, tip to the top of the Castle, and from thence into the Air above sixty Foot high.”

Morland’s efforts to raise water at Versailles led to the publication of Élévation des eaux in 1685, but in the manuscript version in the British Museum, written in 1683, there is an account of the use of steam power to raise water. Although he did not develop the steam engine, his experiment is one of the first to show the practical possibilities of steam power.


I. Original Works. A list of Samuel Morland’s published works is given in app. 2 to the biography by H. W. Dickinson cited below. The main scientific works are Tuba stentoro-phonica, an Instrument of Excellent use as Well at sea as at Land; Invented, and Variously Experimented, in the year 1670 … (London, 1671); The Description and Use of the two Arithmetick Instruments. Together With a Short Treatise Explaining and Demonstrating the Ordinary Operations of Arithmetick. As Likewise A Perpetual Almanack, and Several Useful tables (London, 1673); élévation des eaux par toute sorte de machines réduite à la mesure, au poids, à la balance par le moyen d’un nouveau piston & Corps de pompe d’un nouveau mouvement cycloelliptique … (Paris, 1685); The Poor Man’s Dyal With an Instrument to Set It. Made Applicable to Any Place in England, Scotland, Ireland, &c. (London, 1689); and Hydrostaticks: or Instructions Concerning Water-works, Collected out of the Papers of Sir Samuel Morland. Containing the Method Which he Made use of in This Curious art, Joseph Morland, ed. (London, 1697), There is MS material at the British Museum, Lambeth Palace Library, and Cambridge University Library, all noted by Dickinson. Examples of Morland’s calculating machines are at the Science Museum, London; Museum of the History of Science, Oxford; and the Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence; a speaking trumpet is at Trinity College, Cambridge.

II. Secondary Literature. See J. O. Halliwell, A Brief Account of the Life, Writings, and Inventions of Sir Samuel Morland (Cambridge, 1838); W. E. Knowles Middleton, “Sir Samuel Morland’s Barometers,” in Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences, 5 (1962), 343–351. H. W. Dickinson, Sir Samuel Morland, Diplomat and Inventor 1625–1695 (Cambridge, 1970) published eighteen years after the author’s death by the Newcomen Society, includes an iconography and a bibliography; and D. J. Bryden, “A Didactic Introduction to Arithmetic, Sir Charles Cotterell’s “Instrument for Arithmeticke’ of 1667,” in History of Education, 2 (1973), 5–18.

G. L’E Turner