- Ephraim Chambers
Ephraim Chambers (c
1680- 15 May 1740), was an English writer and encyclopedist, who is primarily known for producing the Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. [Robert Lewis Collison reminds us that Chambers attained the distinction of "father of the modern encylopaedia throughout the world." (Encyclopaedias: Their History Throughout the Ages, 2d ed., p.103, Hafner, New York & London, 1966.) cited in [http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/HistSciTech/subcollections/CyclopaediaAbout.shtml University of Wisconsin] ]
Chambers was born in
Kendal, Westmorland, England, and attended Heversham Grammar Schoolthere. Little is known of his early life, other than that he was apprenticed to a globe-maker, John Senex, in Londonfrom 1714-1721. It was here that he developed the plan of the " Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences". However, after beginning the Cyclopedia, he left Senex's service and devoted himself entirely to the encyclopedia project. He also took chambers in Gray's Inn, where he remained for the rest of his life (Espinasse 2004).
The first edition of the "Cyclopedia" appeared by subscription in 1728, in two folio volumes, and was dedicated to the King. The encyclopedia was subsequently republished and expanded several times. See the "Cyclopedia" article for a complete printing history.
The Cyclopedia provided the inspiration for the landmark "
Encyclopédie" of Denis Diderotand Jean le Rond d'Alembert, which began as a French translation of Chambers' work that was begun in 1743 and finished in 1745 by John Mills, assisted by Gottfried Sellius.
In addition to the "Cyclopaedia", Chambers wrote for and possibly edited the "
Literary Magazine" (1735-1736), which mainly published book reviews. Chambers worked on translating other works in French on perspective and chemistry from 1726 to 1727, including the " Practice of Perspective from the French of Jean Dubreuil". He also worked with John Martyn to translate the " History and Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris" (1742) (Espinasse 2004, Britannica 1911).
Chambers died on May 15, 1740. He was buried in the cloisters of
Westminster Abbey(Espinasse 2004). His epitaph was published in both the original Latin and in English in the " Gentleman's Magazine", volume 10, as follows (translation is the original):
:"Multis pervulgatus":"paucis notus":"Qui vitam inter lucem et umbram" :"Nec eruditus nec idiota" :"Literis deditus transegit, sed ut homo":"Qui humani nihil a se alienum putat":"Vita simul et laboribus functus" :"Hic requiescere voluit":"EPHRAIM CHAMBERS."
:In English thus:
:"Heard of by many," :"Known to few",:"Who led a Life between Fame and Obscurity":"Neither abounding nor deficient in Learning":"Devoted to Study, but as a Man":"Who thinks himself bound to all Offices of Humanity,":"Having finished his Life and Labours together," :"Here desires to rest":"EPHRAIM CHAMBERS."
*Bradshaw, Lael Ely. "Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopedia." In: "Notable Encyclopedias of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Nine Predecessors of the Encyclopédie". Ed. Frank Kafker. Oxford: The Voltaire Foundation, 1981. 123-137.
*"Mr. Ephraim Chambers." "The Gentleman's Magazine" v. 10 (May 1740): p. 262.
*"Ephraim Chambers." Article in
1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.
*Espinasse, Francis. "Chambers, Ephraim (1680?–1740)," rev. Michael Harris. In "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
* [http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/HistSciTech/subcollections/CyclopaediaAbout.shtml Chamber's Cyclopaedia] , digitized and placed online by the [http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/ University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center] .
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