A Mathematical and Philosphical Dictionary
, an eminent Dutch philosopher and mathematician, was born on the 10th of August 1654, at Westgraafdyk in North Holland, where his father was minister. He discovered very early a good genius and a strong inclination for learning; which was carefully improved by a suitable education. He hadalso that prudence and sagacity, which led him to pursue literature by sure and proper steps, acquiring a kind of mastery in one science before he proceeded to another. His father had designed him for the ministry; but seeing his inclination did not lie that way, he prudently left him to pursue the bent of his genius. Accordingly young Nieuwentyt apprehending that nothing was more useful than fixing his imagination and forming his judgment well, applied himself early to logic, and the art of reasoning justly, in which he grounded himself upon the principles of Des Cartes, with whose philosophy he was greatly delighted. From thence he proceeded to the mathematics, in which he made a considerable proficiency; though the application he gave to that branch of learning did not hinder him from studying both law and physic. In fact he succeeded in all these sciences so well, as deservedly to acquire the character of a good philosopher, a great mathematician, an expert physician, and an able and just magistrate.
Although he was naturally of a grave and serious disposition, yet he was very affable and agreeable in conversation. His engaging manner procured the affection of every one; and by this means he often drew over to his opinion those who before differed very widely from him. Thus accomplished, he acquired a great esteem and credit in the council of the town of Puremerende, where he resided; as he did also in the states of that province, who respected him the more, inasmuch as he never engaged in any cabals or factions, in order to secure it; regarding in his conduct, an open, honest, upright behaviour, as the best source of satisfaction, and relying solely on his merit. In fact, he was more attentive to cultivate the sciences, than eager to obtain the honours of the government; contenting himself with being counsellor and burgomaster, without courting or accepting any other posts, which might interfere with his studies, and draw him too much out of his library.—Nieuwentyt died the 7th of May 1730, at 76 years of age—having been twice married.—He was author of several works, in the Latin, French, and Dutch languages, the principal of which are the following:
1. A Treatise in Dutch, proving the Existence of God by the Wonders of Nature; a much esteemed work, and went through many editions. It was translated also into several languages, as the French, and the English, under the title of, The Religious Philosopher, &c.
2. A Refutation of Spinoza, in the Dutch language.
3. Analysis Infinitorum; 1695, 4to.
4. Considerationes secundæ circa Calculi Differentialis Principia; 1696, 8vo.—In this work he attacked Leibnitz, and was answered by John Bernoulli and James Herman.
5. A Treatise on the New Use of the Tables of Sines and Tangents.
6. A Letter to Bothnia or Burmania, upon the Subject of Meteors.