An evaluation of the life and works of Robert Recorde

Posted by Tenby Museum on Oct 19, 2014 Event Archive No Comments

The launch conference at the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery on 19 October was a magical event held at a delightful location under a clear blue sky! Our particular thanks are due to Sue Baldwin, who coordinated the event, to the trustees of the Museum for their support and enthusiasm, and to Robin Wilson for chairing the day in his capacity as President of BSHM. The launch itself was trilingual: while English was the lingua franca, Welsh was also spoken and the presence of the multilingual Director of the University of Wales Press, Dr Helgard Krause, also enabled delegates to hear a conversation in German with Ulrich Reich, who joined the conference via Skype! Dr Krause informed the conference that sales of the hard-copy version of the book are already going well and that the Press anticipates publishing a paperback version (at a lower price) in due course.

The speakers enjoying the sun on their way to lunch – from left to right, Anne Loughran, Gareth Pierce, John Tucker, Fenny Smith, Gareth Roberts, Gordon Roberts and Robin Wilson.

Robert Recorde was born in Tenby c1510 the son of Thomas Recorde, Mayor of Tenby in 1519. At the age of 15 he went to Oxford University and after gaining a B.A., and probably an M.A., he was elected a Fellow of All Souls College in 1531 teaching mathematics. Robert then went to Cambridge where he continued his studies and became a Doctor of Medicine in 1545. Here he taught astrology, explained cosmology and illustrated geometry and music.
Robert went to London in 1546. By 1549 Edward VI had appointed him Controller of the Mint in Bristol. In 1551 he was appointed Surveyor of Mines and Monies of Ireland. Whilst holding this post he crossed swords with Sir William Herbert, later Earl of Pembroke, who was one of three commissioners and a Privy Councillor. Originally political their differences became increasingly acrimonious and resulted in Robert being charged with defamation of magnates and fined £1000. Still owed the same sum for his work in Ireland he was unable to pay and was committed to the King’s Bench Prison in Southwark where his health deteriorated and he died, probably of gaol fever. His will, admitted to probate on 18th June 1558, left his books to a fellow prisoner and various bequests to his family. It is not known whether he ever married.