Henry Briggs (1561 - 1630)

Briggs was not the greatest mathematical innovator. But he did recognise a good idea when he saw one and was a great communicator able to improve and spread new information. In fact he could be described as a great maths public relations specialist.

Born in Halifax, Yorkshire, Briggs went on to Cambridge and from there to Gresham College in London where he became the first Professor of geometry.

Like so many of his contemporaries he had far ranging interests. He invested in the new colonies of America, instructed mariners on navigation, lectured in medicine, was an opponent of astrology and had a great interest in astronomy.

It was astronomy, with its need to calculate great numbers, that lead him to the work of Napier. He had developed logarithms and Briggs realised their great usefulness for practical calculations. He turned his energy to promoting and refining the idea and paid two visits to Napier in Edinburgh in 1615 and 1616. These long eight day round trips proved useful as he collaborated with Napier modifying the logarithms to use base 10.

In 1617 he published his introduction to the new type of logarithms. This work got the scientific world to see the importance of the tables. They are now known as common logarithms or Briggsian logarithms in his honour.