Lecture given at the Society of Antiquaries of London
Samuel Molyneux was born in Chester on 18 July 1689. He was the third and only surviving child of William Molyneux (1656-98) ─ the Dublin born astronomer, natural philosopher, constitutional writer and Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1683 William Molyneux, along with Sir William Petty, founded the ‘Dublin Philosophical Society for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, Mathematics and Mechanics’ − a society that flourished for a short while but floundered during the so called Glorious Revolution of 1688 when the Molyneux family sought exile in England only returning to Dublin after the restoration of the protestant ascendancy.
Both of Samuel’s parents died prematurely –his mother in 1691 when he was only two and his father seven years later. From 1698 his greatest inspiration was his uncle (and now guardian) Thomas Molyneux (1661-1733) who, like his brother William, had studied at Trinity College, Dublin, travelled abroad and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. Thomas went onto pursue a successful career as a physician, being elected a Fellow of the Irish College of Physicians, of which he was elected President in 1713, and later served as Regius Professor of Physic in 1717. Thomas provided his nephew with a first-class education at Trinity College where he was tutored by, amongst others, George Berkeley who dedicated his 1707 book Miscellanea Mathematica to his aspiring pupil.