- John Dawson (surgeon)
John Dawson (1734–1820) was both a mathematician and surgeon. He was born at Raygill in
Garsdalewhere "Dawson's Rock" celebrates the site of his early thinking about conic sections. After learning surgery from Henry Bracken of Lancaster, he worked as a surgeon in Sedbergh for a year, then went to study medicine at Edinburgh, walking 150 miles there with his savings stitched into his coat. Despite a very frugal lifestyle, he was unable to complete his degree, and had to return to Garsdale until he earned enough as a surgeon and as a private tutor in Mathematics at Sedbergh Schoolto enable him to complete his MD from London in 1765.
Dawson published The Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity Briefly Invalidated in 1781, arguing against Joseph Priestley's doctrine of Philosophical Necessity, but his main skill was in Mathematics. He was a private tutor to many undergraduates at the
University of Cambridgewhere his pupils included twelve Senior Wranglers between 1781 and 1807. Although he published little original work, he was skilled in correcting errors in the work of others. He studied the orbit of the moon and the dynamics of objects in central force fields, correcting serious errors in the calculations of the distance between the earth and the sun, and confirming an error in Newton's precession calculations.He is notable as a mentor of Adam Sedgwick, James Inman, George Butler and many other public figures of the nineteenth century.
* "Dictionary of National Biography"; Smith, Elder & Co., 1908-1986, vol. 5, pp. 675-677.
* J.W. Clark and T.M. Hughes, "The Life and Letters of the Reverend
Adam Sedgwick," Cambridge University Press, 1890, vol. 1, pp. 60–71.
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