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The Whetstone of Witte Paperback – 20 Feb 2013
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About the Author
Robert Recorde was born circa 1510 in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales. He entered Oxford University in 1525 aged about 15 years. He graduated with a B.A. in 1531 and was elected a Fellow of All Souls College in the same year. At some time he moved from Oxford to Cambridge, where he studied for an M.D. and graduated in 1545 at the age of 35. He then moved to London, where for a few years he practised medicine. In later years he was always to describe himself as 'physician' and was judged as a very learned scholar. A defining moment in his life occurred in 1549 when he was appointed Controller of the Bristol Mint. It was during his time there that he made a very powerful and ruthless enemy. Sir William Herbert was sent by Edward VI to help suppress a revolt by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, in the west country. Herbert demanded that Recorde divert funds from the mint to pay and support his army, but Recorde refused on the grounds that the order did not come from the king. Herbert countered and accused Recorde of treason. He was lucky to incur the mild penalty of confinement to court for 60 days. However, apparently all was later forgiven because in 1551 he was appointed general surveyor of Mines and Monies in Ireland. He was placed in charge of the Wexford silver mines and also became the technical supervisor of the Dublin mint. In the meantime, Sir William Herbert was created Earl of Pembroke for his services to the crown during the rebellion, and there was continued animosity between him and Recorde. Upon the accession to the throne of Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII, Pembroke was made a privy councillor for his support of Mary's claim to the throne. For some strange reason, Recorde chose the moment when Pembroke was strongest to try and get his revenge, charging him with misconduct in gaining his court positions. The allegation was probably true, but Pembroke was in favour with the monarchy and so had almost perfect immunity. He responded by suing Recorde for libel. There was a hearing in January 1557 and Recorde was ordered to pay the huge sum of £1000 compensation. He either could not or would not pay and so was sentenced to imprisonment in the King's Bench Prison in Southwark, for debt. Whilst in prison he made his will, leaving small sums of money to various people, including £20 to his mother. The date of his death is not known with any certainty, but is generally supposed to have been in the later part of 1558, only a short time after making his will.