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Jane Squire's early modern adventures: 'I see not why I should confine myself to needles, cards, and dice'

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The remarkable life of Jane Squire (1686–1743) sheds light on a range of early modern projects – including maritime endeavours from early diving and salvage to the search for the longitude, and the development of universal systems of language and geography. Her experiences as an outspoken participant in mathematical pursuits also reveal how gender could both help and hinder in such traditionally masculine activities, and how marginalised religious faiths could affect participation in British science and mathematics. After spending years in debtors’ prison in London due to large investments in marine salvage (and her unapologetic Catholicism), Squire became the only woman to openly pursue the British longitude rewards established in 1714. Her religiously-motivated scheme, involving a new ‘universal’ language and means of representing terrestrial and celestial geography, sheds much light on the early 18th-century search for and Board of Longitude. It is today the single most common longitude treatise in collections worldwide, and drew attention at the time from learned and influential individuals, ranging from the bluestockings to the Pope.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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