Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Digges, Thomas

  • André Goddu
Reference work entry

BornKent, England, circa1546

DiedLondon, England, 24 August 1595

Thomas Digges’s reputation among historians rests largely on the fact that he was the leader of the English Copernicans. Among astronomers, he is remembered as among the first to advocate an infinite stellar universe far outside the orbit of Saturn, populated by stars that might themselves have planets.

Thomas was the son of  Leonard Diggesand Bridget Wilford. He received his mathematical training from his father, who died while Thomas was in his early teens, and from  John Dee, who described Thomas as his most worthy mathematical heir. Digges and his wife Agnes Saint Leger had six children, including Sir Dudley Digges and Leonard Digges the younger.

There is no record that Thomas attended any university; his proficiency in mathematical and military matters was derived from his father’s and Dee’s tutoring. He served the government in various capacities. Digges was one of the officers designated in 1582 to repair the...

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Selected References

  1. Cooper, Thompson (1921–1922). “Digges, Thomas.” In Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee. Vol. 5, pp. 976–978. London: Oxford University Press. (The article is inaccurate about Thomas’s early years because of a confusion with another Thomas Digges who matriculated at Cambridge University in 1546. It is a useful source for his nonmathematical publications and reports in MS.)Google Scholar
  2. De Morgan, Augustus. (1839). “Motion of the Earth.” The Penny Cyclopedia15: 454–458Google Scholar
  3. Digges, Thomas (1571). “A Mathematical Discourse of Geometrical Solids.” In Pantometria, byLeonard Digges. London: Henrie Bynneman.Google Scholar
  4. — (1573). Alae seu scalae mathematicae. London: Thomas Marsh.Google Scholar
  5. — (1576). “A Perfit Description of the Caelestiall Orbes.” In A Prognostication Everlastinge, by Leonard Digges. London: Thomas Marsh.Google Scholar
  6. — (1579). Stratioticos. London: Henrie BynnemanGoogle Scholar
  7. Easton, Joy B. (1971). “Digges, Thomas.” In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. Vol. 4, pp. 97–98. New York: Charles Scriber’s Sons.Google Scholar
  8. Granada, Miguel A. (1997). “Thomas Digges, Giordano Bruno e il Copernicanesimo in Inghilterra.” In Giordano Bruno, 15831585:Lesperieza inglese(The English Experience), edited by Michele Ciliberto and Nicholas Mann, pp. 125–156. Florence: L. S. Olschki. (Corrects Johnson’s claims that Digges anticipated Bruno and possibly influenced Bruno on his conception of an infinite universe.)Google Scholar
  9. Hall, A. R. (1952). Ballistics in the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Johnson, Francis R. (1936). “The Influence of Thomas Digges on the Progress of Modern Astronomy in Sixteenth-Century England.” Osiris1: 390–410.zbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. — (1937). Astronomical Thought in Renaissance England:A Study of the English Scientific Writings from 15001645. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  12. — “Thomas Digges.” Letter to the Times Literary Supplement, 5 April 1934, p. 244. (Corrects Cooper’s article in the Dictionary of National Biography.)Google Scholar
  13. Johnson, Franics R. and Sandford V. Larkey (1934). “Thomas Digges, the Copernican System, and the Idea of the Infinity of the Universe in 1576.” Huntington Library Bulletin, no. 5: 69–117. (Reproduces the 1576 edition of “A Perfit Description” from a copy of A Prognostication everlastingein the Huntington Library.)Google Scholar
  14. Koyré, Alexandre (1957). From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. New York: Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. (See esp. pp. 35–39 where he also corrects Johnson on Digges’s conception of an infinite space, which Digges conceived in theological terms.)Google Scholar
  15. Neale, J. E. (1958). Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  16. Webb, H. H. (1965). Elizabethan Military Science. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  17. Westman, Robert S. (2011). The Copernican Question. (See esp. pp. 268–280 where he explains the astrological context for the reception of the Copernican theory.)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • André Goddu
    • 1
  1. 1.Stonehill CollegeEastonUSA