10 CURIOUS KENT BIRTHS
Kent Life|March 2020
We’re all familiar with blue plaques, but could Kent Life come up with 10 notable births in our county – avoiding the most obvious ones? See if you agree
Stephen Roberts

Ashford (1616)

In an earlier evocation of Bletchley Park’s brilliance, John Wallis (1616-1703) was a codebreaker, a clergymanmathematician who deciphered enemy messages, firstly for the Roundheads during the English Civil War, and later for King William III (William of Orange).

He was ‘chief cryptographer’ between 1643, the year after the Civil War began, and 1689, the year after the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and accession of William and Mary.

Wallis is also credited with having introduced a symbol ( ) to represent infinity. ‘Ah, infinitesimal calculus’ I hear you say. Yes, he was one clever cookie.

Sittingbourne (1688)

The year of that ‘Glorious Revolution’, when the Catholicleaning James II was displaced by Protestants William and Mary, was also the year alleged fraudster Lewis Theobald (16881744) was born.

Theobald led a colourful life, vying with Alexander Pope to be an acknowledged translator of Shakespeare, the two men generating a mutual hatred in the process. Theobald was the better editor, but Pope (the better poet) proclaimed Theobald a ‘dunce’.

Theobald’s play Double Falshood (sic) was allegedly a re-working of a lost Shakespeare play, or was he just passing off his own material as the Bard’s?

Canterbury (1790)

A cryptographer and a possible fraud; this is going well. Isaac Nathan (1790-1864) was more mainstream, a musician, but then he was also the first composer to harmonise Australian aboriginal music, which sounds decidedly revolutionary for the time.

He also collaborated with Lord Byron on Hebrew Melodies, was a tutor to Princess Charlotte, the Prince Regent’s daughter, eloped twice, fought a duel, got in debt, undertook ‘mysterious services’ for the royal family (spying?) and wrote the first Australian opera, before becoming the Southern Hemisphere’s first tram fatality. Mainstream not.

Tonbridge (1799)

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