John Wilkins, bishop of Chester, was born at Fawsley, Northamptonshire, and educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford.
He was ordained and became vicar of Fawsley in 1637, but soon resigned and became chaplain successively to Lord Saye and Sele, Lord Berkeley, and Prince Charles Louis, nephew of Charles I and afterwards elector palatine of the Rhine.
In 1648 he became warden of Wadham College, Oxford. Under him the college was extraordinarily prosperous, for, although a supporter of Cromwell, he was in touch with the most cultured royalists, who placed their sons in his charge. In 1659 Richard Cromwell appointed him master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
At the Restoration in 1660 he was deprived, but appointed prebendary of York and rector of Cranford, Middlesex. In 1661 he was preacher at Gray's Inn, and in 1662 vicar of St Lawrence Jewry, London. He became vicar of Polebrook, Northamptonshire, in 1666, prebendary of Exeter in 1667, and in the following year prebendary of St Paul's and bishop of Chester.
Possessing strong scientific tastes, he was the chief founder of the Royal Society and its first secretary. He died in London on November 10 1672.
The chief of his numerous works is An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language (London, 1668), in which he expounds a new universal language for the use of philosophers. He is remembered also for a curious work entitled The Discovery of a World in the Moon (1638, 3rd ed., with an appendix "The possibility of a passage thither," 1640). Other works are A Discourse Concerning a New Planet (1640); Mercury, or the Secret and Swift Messenger (1641), a work of some ingenuity on the means of rapid correspondence; and Mathematical Magick (1648).
In the novel Cryptonomicon he is credited as the first author of a cryptology compendium titled 'The Cryptonomicon', and is probably a character in the forthcoming novel Quicksilver.
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