Who is Sir Jonas Moore?

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Higham’s most famous citizen was Sir Jonas Moore. Sir Jonas Moore was born at Higher Whitelee on 8th February 1617.  He became a leading Practical Mathematician, Surveyor, Cartographer, Ordnance Officer, Courtier and Patron of Astronomy.  He rose from humble origins to be awarded a Knighthood, gained membership of the Royal Society and won favour at the court of Charles II.

As a mathematician he is best known as the first to use the notation ‘cot’ (cotangent).

He participated as Surveyor in the two most ambitious projects of the age.  He was involved with the building of a massive harbour wall, the Mole, at Tangier and also with the draining of the Great Level of the Fens – the Bedford Level, which commenced in 1649.  He wrote an account of the work which was printed in 1685 after his death.  Oliver Cromwell procured from him a model of a citadel ‘to bridle the city of London’, and Samuel Pepys was said to possess a copy of his survey of the entire course of the River Thames.

Perhaps his most important contribution was his setting up of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich with John Flamsteed, who became the first Astronomer Royal.  Moore furnished Flamsteed, at his own private expense, with a seven foot sextant, as well as two clocks, which were used by Flamsteed in his work involved in finding ‘longitude’.

A recent work describes Moore’s contribution to the founding of the Royal Observatory claiming, with much supporting evidence, that he was ‘the sole driving force behind the scheme’.

Sir Jonas Moore died in 1679 whilst on a journey from Portsmouth to London.