button to main menu  Gents Mag 1791 p.1062

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Gentleman's Magazine 1791 p.1062

Obituary, William Gibson

4. At his house at Blawith, near Cartmell, occasioned by a fall he got in Eggerslach, when returning from Cartmell, Mr. William Gibson. He was born in the year 1720, at a village called Boulton, a few miles from Appleby, in Westmorland. At the death of his father, being left young, without parents, guardians, or any immediate means of support, he put himself under the care of a reputable farmer in the neighbourhood, to learn the farming business, where he remained several years. Having obtained some knowledge therein, he removed to the distance of about 30 miles, to be superintendant to a farm near Kendal. After being there some time, and arrived at the age about 17 or 18, he was informed that his father had been possessed of a tolerable estate, in landed property; and that, in the beginning of the last century, he had descended from the same family with Dr. Edmund Gibson, then bishop of London. He spent the little money he had acquired by his industry to come at the truth of the business; when he found, to his sorrow, that the estate was mortgaged to its full value, and upwards. He therefore continued his occupation, and soon afterwards rented and managed a little farm of his own, at a place called Hollins, in Cartmell Fell, not far from Cartmell, where he applied himself vigourously to study. A little time previous to this, he had admired the operation of figures; but laboured under every disadvantage, for want of education. As he had not been taught either to read or write, he turned his thoughts to reading English, and enabled himself to read and comprehend a plain author. He therefore purchased a treatise on arithmetick; and though he could not write, he soon went through common arithmetick, vulgar and decimal fractions, the extraction of the square and cube roots, &c. by his memory only, and became so expert therein, that he could tell, without setting down a figure, the product of any two number multiplied together, although the multiplier and multiplicand, each of them, consisted of nine places of figures: and it was equally astonishing how he could answer, in the same manner, questions in division, in decimal fractions, or in the extraction of square or cube roots, where such a multiplicity of figures is often required in the operation. Yet at this time he did not know that any merit was due to himself, conceiving other people's capacity like his own; but being a sociable companion, and when in company taking a particular pride in puzzling his companions with proposing different questions to them, they gave him others in return, which, from the certainty and expeditious manner he had in answering them, made him first noticed as an arithmetician, and a man of most wonderful memory. Finding himself still labouring under further difficulties, for want of a knowledge in writing, he taught himself to write a tolerable hand. As he did not know the meaning of the word mathematicks, he had no idea of any thing beyond what he had learned. He thought himself a master-piece in figures, and challenged all his companions, and the society he attended. Something, however, was proposed to him concerning Euclid; but as he did not understand the meaning of the word, he was silent, but afterwords found it meant a book, containing the elements of geometry, which he purchased, and applied himself very diligently to the study of, and against the next meeting, in this new science he was prepared with an answer. He now found himself launching out into a new field, of which, before, he had no conception. He continued his geometrical studies; and as the demonstration of the different propositions in Euclid depend entirely upon a recollection
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