Isaac Greenwood

Professor Isaac Greenwood (11 May 1702 in Boston, Massachusetts[1] 22 October 1745 in Charleston, South Carolina [1]) was the first Hollisian Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard College.[2]

Isaac Greenwood
Born(1702-05-11)11 May 1702
Died22 October 1745(1745-10-22) (aged 43)
NationalityAmerican Colonies
Alma materHarvard College
Known forGreenwood Book (1729),
short scale value of billion
AwardsHollisian Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
Scientific career
Academic advisorsThomas Robie, John Theophilus Desaguliers

He graduated at Harvard in 1721, and was instrumental in the smallpox inoculation controversy of that year, speaking out in favour of inoculation. He travelled to London, where he lodged with John Theophilus Desaguliers and attended his lectures on Newtonian Experimental Philosophy. He later introduced the subject in the American Colonies and his book An Experimental Course of Mechanical Philosophy, published in Boston in 1726, owed much to Desaguliers. In London Greenwood met with Thomas Hollis, who wished to endow a Chair at Harvard College for him. Hollis later fell out with Greenwood, over his lack of financial prudence. However, back in Boston, Greenwood was eventually appointed to the new Hollis Chair in 1727.

During his tenure, he wrote anonymously the first natively-published American book on mathematics the Greenwood Book, published in 1729.[3] This book made the first published statement of the short scale value for billion in the United States, which eventually became the value used in most English-speaking countries.[4]

Greenwood married Sara Shrimpton Clarke, daughter of Dr John Clarke, on 31 July 1729, and had five children, of whom the eldest, Isaac, became a noted dentist.[1]

He was removed from the Chair for intemperance in 1737. Unable to support his family, he joined the Royal Navy as a chaplain aboard HMS Rose in 1742, transferring to HMS Aldborough in 1744. He was released from service in Charleston, South Carolina, on 22 May 1744 and died from the effects of alcohol on 22 October 1745.[5]


  1. Harvard Library
  3. Smith, D. E. (February 1921). "The first work on mathematics printed in the New World". The American Mathematical Monthly. 28: 10–15. doi:10.2307/2974202.
  4. History of Mathematics Volume II (1925, republished 1953) by David Eugene Smith, pp. 8486
  5. Leonard, David C. (April 1981). "Harvard's First Science Professor: A Sketch of Isaac Greenwood's Life and Work". Harvard Library Bulletin. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University. 29 (2): 162. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
Succeeded by
John Winthrop
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.