Thomas Burnet

Born: Thomas Burnet was born in around 1635 at Croft. His father was John Burnet.

Educated: Thomas Burnet was educated at the free school of Northallerton, Clare College, Cambridge and Christ’s College, Cambridge. He entered holy orders.

Married: He never married.

Family:  He had no children.

Home: From about 1657 to 1671 Burnet lived in Cambridge. In 1671 he travelled in Europe as tutor to Lord Wiltshire. He presumably spent the last thirty years of his life in residence at the London Charterhouse, where he was Master.

Known for: Thomas Burnet became well known in the capital city and in scientific circles. He was Master of the London Charterhouse from 1685 until his death in 1715. In 1687 he famously resisted King James II’s demand that a Catholic be admitted as a pensioner at Charterhouse. Burnet served as chaplain and clerk of the closet to King William III from 1691 until 1695. He was the author of “The Theory of the Earth”, originally written in Latin in 1681, which included the idea that the story of creation in the Book of Genesis should not be taken literally. The physicist and astronomer Isaac Newton and the astronomer Edmund Halley among others discussed his ideas. He also wrote theological books.

Died: Thomas Burnet died on 27th September 1715 and was buried in the London Charterhouse chapel. He is not to be confused with his contemporary Sir Thomas Burnet who was physician to Queen Anne.

Further Information: “The History and Antiquities of Northallerton” C.J.Davison Ingledew (1863)

“Isaac Newton and Thomas Burnet: Biblical Criticism and the Crisis of Late Seventeenth-Century England” S.Mandelbrote in ”The Books of Nature and Scripture” James E. Force and Richard H.Popkin (eds.)  (2013)