Mathematician:Francis Maseres

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English lawyer, judge, mathematician and historian.

Also at one time the attorney general of the Province of Quebec.

His stance on mathematics was somewhat conservative, to the extent of refusing to accept the validity of negative numbers.


English, of French origin


  • Born: 15 December 1731 in London, England
  • 1750: Entered the Inner Temple to study law
  • 1752: Bachelor of Arts from Clare College, Cambridge
  • 1755: Master of Arts from Clare College, Cambridge
  • 1758: Admitted to the bar
  • 4 March 1766: Appointed attorney general of the new British Province of Quebec, which had been obtained from France in $1763$
  • 26 September 1766: sworn into office
  • 1769: Returned to England
  • 1771: Elected member of the Royal Society of London
  • August 1773: Made Cursitor Baron of the Exchequer
  • 1780: Elected Senior Judge of Sheriff's Court in London
  • Died: 19 May 1824 in Reigate, Surrey, England


  • 1758: A Dissertation On the Use of the Negative Sign in Algebra
  • 1760: Elements of Plane Trigonometry
  • 1764: Criminal Libel and the Duty of Juries (with Joseph Towers)
  • 1766: Considerations on the Expediency of Procuring an Act of Parliament for the settlement of the province of Quebec
    • 1766: Considérations sur la nécessité de faire voter un acte par le parlement pour régler les difficultés survenues dans la province de Québec (French version)
  • 1770: Considerations on the Expediency of Admitting Representatives from the American Colonies into the British House of Commons
  • 1772: A Collection of Several Commissions, and Other Public Instruments, Proceeding from His Majesty's Royal Authority, and Other Papers, Relating to the State of the Province in Quebec in North America, Since the Conquest of it by the British Arms in 1760
  • 1772: A Draught of an Act of Parliament for Tolerating the Roman Catholick Religion in the Province of Quebec, and for Encouraging the Protestant Religion Into the Said Province
  • 1772: Draught of An Act of Parliament for Settling the Laws of the Province of Quebec
    • 1773: Mémoire à la défense d'un plan d'acte de parlement pour l'établissement des loix de la province de Québec
  • 1772: A Proposal for Establishing Life-Annuities in Parishes for the Benefit of the Industrious Poor
  • 1773: Réponse aux observations faites par Mr. François Joseph Cugnet, secrétaire du gouverneur & Conseil de la province de Québec pour la langue françoise, sur le plan d'acte de parlement pour l'établissement des lois de la ditte province
  • 1775: An Account of the Proceedings of the British, and other Protestant Inhabitants, of the Province of Quebeck, in North America, in Order to Obtain An House of Assembly in that Province
    • 1776: Additional Papers Concerning the Province of Quebeck: Being An Appendix to the Book Entitled, "An Account of the Proceedings of the British and Other Protestant Inhabitants of the Province of Quebeck in North America in Order to Obtain a House of Assembly in that Province"
  • 1777 -- 1779: The Canadian Freeholder: In Two Dialogues Between an Englishman and a Frenchman, Settled in Canada (3 volumes)
  • 1781: A View of the English Constitution By the late Baron de Montesquieu. Being a Translation of the Sixth Chapter of the Eleventh Book of his Celebrated Treatise, Intitled L'Esprit des loix
  • 1783: The Principles of the Doctrine of Life-Annuities
  • 1784: Questions, sur lesquelles on souhaite de sçavoir les réponses de Monsieur Adhémar et de Monsieur de Lisle, et d'autres habitants de la province de Québec
  • 1784: The Case of Peter Du Calvet, Esq., of Montreal in the Province of Quebeck: Containing (amongst other things worth notice), An Account of the Long and Severe Imprisonment He Suffered in the Said Province (with Pierre du Calvet)
  • 1788: A Review of the Government and Grievances of the Province of Quebec, Since the Conquest of it by the British Arms
  • 1790: Answer to an Introduction to the Observations Made by the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas
  • 1789: Observations on Tithes .... By William Hales...To Which is Added a Second Edition of The Moderate Reformer
  • 1795: The Doctrine of Permutations and Combinations:..., London, 1795 (online)
  • 1796: Appendix to The Principles of Algebra (by William Frend)
  • 1800: Tracts on the Resolution of Affected Algebräick Equations by Dr. Halley's, Mr. Raphson's, and Sir Isaac Newton's, Methods of Approximation (with Edmond Halley, William Frend, and John Kersey)
  • 1791 -- 1807: Scriptores logarithmici or, A collection of several curious tracts on the nature and construction of logarithms (6 volumes)
  • 1809: Occasional Essays on Various Subjects: Chiefly Political and Historical
  • 1812: Preface to The History of the Parliament of England (by Thomas May)
  • 1815: Publisher of Select Tracts Relating to the Civil Wars in England, in the Reign of King Charles the First: by Writers Who Lived in the Time of Those Wars and Were Witnesses of the Events Which They Describe
  • 1919: The Maseres Letters, 1766–1768

Critical View

Maseres wrote many mathematical works which show a complete lack of creative ability. He rejected negative numbers and that part of algebra which is not arithmetic, despite writing 150 years after Viète and Harriot. It is probable that Maseres rejected all mathematics which he could not understand.
John J. O'Connor and Edmund F. Robertson