John Colson

John Colson by John Wollaston
Died20 January 1760(1760-01-20) (aged 79–80)
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
Known forSigned-digit representation
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge

John Colson FRS (1680 – 20 January 1760) was an English clergyman, mathematician, and the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University.


John Colson was educated at Lichfield School before becoming an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford, though he did not take a degree there. He became a schoolmaster at Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School in Rochester, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1713. He was Vicar of Chalk, Kent from 1724 to 1740. He relocated to Cambridge and lectured at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. [1] From 1739 to 1760, he was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. He was also Rector of Lockington, Yorkshire.[2]


In 1726 he published his Negativo-Affirmativo Arithmetik advocating a modified decimal system of numeration. It involved "reduction [to] small figures" by "throwing all the large figures out of a given number, and introducing in their room the equivalent small figures respectively".[3]

John Colson translated several of Isaac Newton's works into English, including De Methodis Serierum et Fluxionum in 1736.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b Cooper 1887.
  2. ^ "Colson, John (CL728J2)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ John Colson (1726) "A Short Account of Negativo-Affirmativo Arithmetik", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 34:161–73. Available as Early Journal Content from JSTOR