Hayes, Charles

(1678-1760), mathematician

by R. E. Anderson, rev. Niccolò Guicciardini

© Oxford University Press 2004 All rights reserved

Hayes, Charles (1678-1760), mathematician, was a member of Gray's Inn and the author of Treatise of Fluxions, or, An Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, which appeared in 1704. This was the first English work explaining Newton's method of fluxions--the Newtonian version of the infinitesimal calculus; it covered in more than three hundred pages all the known areas of the early eighteenth-century calculus (finding tangents, areas, maxima and minima, caustics, centres of gravity, percussion, and oscillation, plus a treatment of central forces). It was published just before Newton's masterpiece, De quadratura curvarum (1704), which certainly nullified the usefulness of Hayes's laudable effort. In the preface Hayes writes that he asked the advice of John Harris, and his knowledge of contemporary literature on the subject, both continental and British, is remarkable. Hayes's treatise is clearly an attempt to divulge to the general reader the result on the calculus obtained by the most distinguished mathematicians. He claims no originality and in several cases his treatise is quite eclectic: in the section devoted to astronomy, for example, he mixes propositions taken from Newton's Principia (1687) with propositions taken from Leibniz's works on dynamics, which were based on completely different conceptions.

In 1710 Hayes printed a pamphlet, New and Easy Method to Find the Longitude at Land or Sea, and in 1723 Of the Moon, a Philosophical Dialogue, in which he attempted to prove that the moon is not opaque, but has some light of its own. Having made a voyage to Africa and spent some time there, he had considerable repute as a geographer, and was chosen annually to be sub-governor or deputy governor of the Royal African Company. After applying himself for some years to the study of Hebrew, Hayes in 1736 published his Vindication of the History of the Septuagint, and in 1738 Critical Examination of the Holy Gospels According to St Matthew and St Luke, with regard to the history of Christ's birth and infancy. His studies were afterwards mainly directed to chronology, excepting occasional tracts written to defend the policy of the Royal African Company. In 1741 he published a Dissertation on the Chronology of the Septuagint, a defence of the Chaldean and Egyptian chronology and history, and in 1747 there appeared a supplement, Series of Kings of Argos and of Emperors of China from Fohi to Jesus Christ, to prove that their dates and order of succession agreed with the Septuagint.

When the Royal African Company was dissolved in 1752 Hayes settled at Downe, Kent, and became absorbed in his great work, Chronographia Asiatica et Aegyptiaca, which he did not live to complete. Two parts of it only were published, during the last two years of his life, when he had chambers in Gray's Inn. Part of his argument is that the Septuagint and Josephus made use of writings preserved in the library of the temple of Jerusalem which had been omitted in making up the Old Testament canon. John Nichols remarked that Hayes spent much time in philosophical experiments. Hayes found favour with his contemporaries for his 'sedate temper' and clear method of exposition, and Charles Hutton, who was twenty-three years old at Hayes's death, remarked that he had 'great erudition concealed by modesty' (Hutton, 587). Hayes died at his chambers in Gray's Inn on 18 December 1760.


GM, 1st ser., 31 (1761), 543-7
Nichols, Lit. anecdotes, 2.322-6
C. Hutton, A philosophical and mathematical dictionary, new edn, 1 (1815), 587
R. V. Wallis and P. J. Wallis, eds., Biobibliography of British mathematics and its applications, 2 (1986)
J. Aikin and others, General biography, or, Lives, critical and historical of the most eminent persons, 10 vols. (1799-1815)
N. Guicciardini, The development of Newtonian calculus in Britain, 1700-1800 (1989)
N. A. Hans, New trends in education in the eighteenth century (1951)

Oxford University Press 2004 All rights reserved


GO TO THE OUP ARTICLE (Sign-in required)