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Gabriel Stokes

Biographical Details

On this page:
Trinity College Dublin
Professional work
Grant of Arms 1721
Surveyor Generals of Ireland
Lecture by Alistair Wood

References for Gabriel Stokes

One starting point for information Gabriel Stokes work is the entry in The Index of British Mathematicians Pt3 1701-1800 by RV & PJ Wallis, pub Newcastle on Tyne 1993. This gives his dates (1682-1768) and classifies him as a mathematical instrument maker, land surveyor, and deputy surveyor general of Ireland. It gives an address: Dial, Essex Street, Dublin. This work gives about 12 references for Gabriel. Some of these are listed below. As I check each reference I will report details. Please send me details from any of these references which you have consulted or other sources

Additional references to be obtained and studied:
CLARK, Mary The Book of Maps of the Dublin City Surveyors, 1695-1827. Dublin, 1983. pp.i, x. p.1.

The Office of Surveyor General in Ireland in the C18 by Edward McParland. Architectural History V38, p91, 1995 - pub by The Society of Architectural Historians of GB.

All the above references are in the online catalogue of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, so I have visited the Bodleian and studied some of them. It turns out the first 6 in the above list, all starting with the year date, are books which Gabriel Stokes's name appears in a printed list of subscribers. It was the practice to seek subscribers in advance of publication to help defray the costs. The list thus tells us something of Gabriel's mathematical reading in his 50's and 60's. The references JHA and T657, provide considerable information on his professional work.

I visited the Cambridge University Library and there I obtained a photocopy of the only known printed publication by Gabriel, which was dated 1735. I shall place it on the web in due course. It is entitled, "A Scheme for effectually supplying every Part of the City of Dublin with pipe-water, without any Charge of Water-engines, etc."

Gabriel Stokes and Trinity College Dublin

Another starting point is Alumni Dubliensis 1593 - 1860. This gives brief details of each entrant and graduate of Trinity College Dublin (TCD). No record of Gabriel's attendance has been found, presumably his tailor father did not aspire to academic heights for his son and chose to give him a more practical training, for he apprenticing gabriel to the the leading Dublin Surveyor, Moland, at the age of 14. By the time he was 46 however, Gabriel was sufficiently ambitious for his sons that he sent His eldest son Gabriel to TCD which he entered at the age of 16 as a pensioner on 24 June 1728. Gabriel's schoolmaster had been a Dr Sheridan in Dublin. The entry records his father's profession as a mathematical instrument maker. Presumably surveying was a sideline and he had not then became deputy surveyor general. Gabriel tragically died within about one year. Gabriel and Elizabeth then named their youngest son, who was born in 1732, Gabriel.

The next son to enter TCD was John (my 4 greats grandfather). John had also been at DR Sheridan's school in Dublin, and he entered TCD as a pensioner on 27 July 1735 at the age of 14. He had an academic career that must have made Gabriel and Elizabeth proud. In 1739 he became a scholar. He gained his BA in 1740 and MA in 1743. In 1746 he became a fellow. He was appointed Regius Professor of Greek in 1764 - 4 years before his father died. He is also shown as TCD Regius Professor of Maths, Rector of Raynochy & Sharne, Co Derry DD [Raymoghy & Clondahorky]. He took the rectorship of Rahy in 1777 and died on 2 Nov 1781.

The youngest son, Gabriel, mentioned above, had Mr Magill as his schoolmaster. He entered as a pensioner at the age of 17 on 6 August 1748. He followed his brother John's illustrious example. In 1751 he became a scholar. He obtained his BA in 1753 and became a fellow in 1756. He became a Professor of Mathematics at Dublin University, Rector of Desertmartin, Co Derry, Rector of Ardtrea & Magherafelt Co Derry, and Chancellor of Waterford.

There is no record of Gabriel's other 3 sons, James, Benjamin and William, entering TCD.

In the next 100 years, up to 1860, 8 grandsons, great grandsons, and great great grandsons of Gabriel entered TCD.

The professional work of Gabriel Stokes

The notes of Mary Eileen Brereton (nee Stokes), my grandmother, record that Gabriel was the son of a tailor, which sounds a modest profession. However, I suppose that a tailor running a business fitting the gentry of Dublin could be quite prosperous. It is interesting to speculate that the intricacies of fitting 2 dimensional cloth around 3 dimensional people provided a background that enabled Gabriel to develop an intuitive approach to geometry. Possibly tailoring also provided him with precision manual skills for hand crafting instruments.

In "Watch and Clockmakers in Ireland: A list of Irish Watch and Clockmakers from 1611 to 1900" by Willam Galland Stuart (arranged and eited by David Arthur Boles. Published by Jane Stuart, Co. Kildare in association with the Irish Heritage Council, Dublin, 2000) Gabriel Stokes appears listed as a watch and clockmaker. The only details are as follows:

On 31 July 1696 Gabriel Stokes was apprenticed to Joseph Moland, Surveyor, and he surveyed the west side of Bride Street in March 1723.

Joseph Moland does not appear in the list as a clockmaker, so it may be that Gabriel trained as a surveyor and turned to mathematical instrument making and clockmaking after his apprenticship.

The earliest reference we have found to the young Gabriel's work is a tracing of a survey of a plot of land he made when aged aged 18. The map is refered to in the catalogue of Muniments of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity commonly called Christ Church, Dublin.

Survey of a plot of ground on the east side of Christ Church Lane, with two dwelling rooms and four shops. Mrs Symon Anyon is a tenant. Surveyed by Abr Carter and traced by Gab Stoakes,28 May 1700. 265x330 mm 10 feet/1 inch

An early map signed by Gabriel and dated 23 Oct 1714 was puchased at auction in 2008, by St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

In 2010 I found  a survey map in  the  National Library of Ireland, which bears the the inscription "Surveyed in Aprill 1723 by  Gab. Stokes ."

Alan Midleton, Librarian of the British Horological Institute, says in a reply to Peter Barker who enquired on my behalf that the address "Dial" seems to have been a common one for those engaged in horology. He also says that he is not aware of other information about Gabriel Stokes in the BHI library.

Alan Nicholas Stokes reports that Gabriel manufactured accurate chronometers. Doubtless many mathematical instrument makers were equipped with clock making skills. In this connection it is interesting to note that the 1714 Act of Parliament creating the prize of 20,000 for solution of the Longitude Problem must have created much activity. Famously, it took John Harrison over 50 years to carry out the technological developments needed to secure the prize.

At present I do not know the precise duties of Deputy Surveyor General. Alan Nicholas Stokes says that Gabriel planned the construction of Pigeon House Quay a long mole in Dublin Bay.

Several sources say that Gabriel used the principles of hydrostatics to design the piped water supply for Dublin. It seems that surveyor generals did more than what we think of as surveying - land surveying.

I have found some information about the Surveyor Generals. A major part of their activities seem to have been architecture, and this was not a side line. When the job of designing the new Parliament Building came up in 1729, this was given to the up and coming architect, Sir Edward Pearce, passing over Thomas Burgh the existing Surveyor General, who would have been expected to be given the commission.

Grant of Arms to Gabriel by the Ulster Office in 1721

The crest of the surveyor's forestaff marked his profession. The rampant double tailed lion seems to be a link to the Gloucestershire Stokes family

Surveyor Generals of Ireland

1660s William Petty Responsible for the Down Survey of Ireland
? - 1669 possibly Captain John Morton, Viceroy Lord Berkeley's architect
1670 - 1700 William Robinson(1645-1712) from England? Attributed to him are: Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Marshe's Library, St Mary's Church. Believed to have designed St Michan's Church
1684- ? William Molyneaux shared with above
1700-1730 Thomas Burgh(1670-1730) son of a bishop who joined the army. He designed, Royal (now Collins) Barracks(1701), the old Customs House (1707), Dr Steevan's Hospital, Library at TCD, St Werburgh's Church
1730-1733 ? Sir Edward Lovat Pearce(1699-1733) started the new Parliament Buildings (now Bank of Ireland) in 1729
1733-1743 Arthur Dobbs(1689-?) Mayor of Carrickfergus, MP, then became surveyor general of Ireland, 1753 appointed Governor of North Carolina
1743-1752 Arthur Jones-Neville accused of maladminstration in failing to procure contractors to maintain Ireland's barracks
1752-1763 Thomas Eyre works at Ashton Castle  and at Dublin Castle

Most of the above were found on the Irish Architecture web site and at Surveyor General of Ireland in Wikipedia.

Lecture given by Alistair Wood at the Centenary Seminar to mark GGStokes Death

On the 18 March 2003 a seminar was held at the Issac Newton Institute Cambridge to mark the life and work of Sir George Gabriel Stokes. Alistair Wood who is studying the life Of GG Stokes gave a lecture in which he gave some small short of family background relating to Gabriel and his children and grandchildren. There is a audio recording available on the INT website plus the slides used to illustrate the talk. Although the talk is 1 hour, it is well worth listening to not only for information about Sir GG Stokes but also for what he has to say about the rest of the family.

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