The Academic Enemy of Thomas Hobbes
WARD, Seth. Vindiciæ Academarium containing some briefe animadversions upon Mr Webster's Book, stiled, The Examination of Academies. Oxford: Leonard Lichfield, 1654.
Small 4to. Recently rebound in full brown morocco, gilt lettering to spine; pp. 65; very good. Provenance: family copy with bookplate of a later Seth Ward to front pastedown.
Seth Ward (1617-1689) was an astronomer, mathematician and Bishop of Salisbury. This was an important work in the ongoing controversy started by Thomas Hobbes's attack on the Oxbridge system in Leviathan (1651). The chemist John Webster weighed in on Hobbes's side with his Examen Academarium, which doubted the need of a university-educated clergy. This is Ward's riposte, which comes with a preface by his ally John Wilkins. It was published anonymously because of the strength of the opinions expressed, although there was a clue to the author's identity - it is signed at the end 'H.D', which are the last letters of Ward's first and last names. Although the book is aimed at Webster it also contains a detailed refutation of Hobbes and his contention that the universities refused to teach anything beyond Aristotle: "... natural science and all new forms of knowledge are welcomed, mathematics has been considerably advanced, chemistry and magnetism are studied, and projects are afoot for establishing a laboratory for chemical, mechanical and optical researches. Those who cry out upon the university exercises in the schools close their eyes to the work done in college halls and in tutors' chambers". Ward was a founding member of the Royal Society; it is worth noting that Hobbes was never elected.