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Thomas Wright

Thomas Wright was born in County Durham in 1711. He was educated at home and then probably at King James' School. He was apprenticed to a watch-maker in Bishop Auckland from 1725-9. He studied mathematics and navigation in 1730, and after working in London and visiting Amsterdam he returned to Sunderland. He set up a school to teach navigation and made instruments for sale.

Wright met Richard Lumley, second earl of Scarborough, in 1733. Through this contact the Admiralty approved the publication, in 1734, of Wright's Clavis pannautici. In 1742 he published Clavis coelestis, a large engraved diagram of the heavens intended as a teaching aid. In 1750, he published An Original Theory of the Universe, for which he became famous. He concluded that the stars must be arranged in a disc or grindstone, an idea that would later be seen as a precursor to the work of William Herschel.

Wright visited Ireland in 1746. Around this time he was giving tuition to aristocratic ladies on the subjects of mathematics and astronomy. He was also engaged in surveying estates, planning at least 15 gardens and grottoes. He published two volumes of Universal Architecture in 1755 and 1758. He bought the house where he had been born in 1755, re-built it and improved the site over the next few years. He died there in 1786.


Knight, David, 'Wright, Thomas (1711-1786)' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006) <> [ accessed 29 June 2009]

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