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Learning Geometry in Georgian England
Master Thomas Porcher
These lines come from the geometry copybook of a boy named Thomas Porcher. It’s about 61/2 inches by 91/2; it’s bound in green card. It has more than 200 pages, so it’s quite a chunky volume. Thomas wrote it around 1770.
Figure 1. Thomas Porcher constructs an equilateral triangle.
Thomas Porcher was about 14 at the time he wrote his copy-book; he was born in 1756 (the same year as Mozart). His book is a remarkable feat of penmanship: neat, meticulous, and accurate, it must have taken many long hours to do. Porcher’s was a fairly prosperous family, it seems, in Walworth, near London, England. We don’t know much about them, though one of Thomas’s sons, Samuel, would make good in the New World: by 1811 he owned a plantation in South Carolina, which he named Walworth after his family’s home in England. Porcher Avenue in Eutawville, South Carolina was named after the family.
Thomas was probably learning geometry with a tutor. This tidy book isn’t the kind of product that would normally have been created in a school setting, where a bit more chaos usually seems to have ruled.
Table Of Contents
Wardhaugh, Benjamin, "Learning Geometry in Georgian England," Loci (August 2012), DOI: 10.4169/loci003930