Benjamin Martin (Biographical details)

Benjamin Martin (author/poet; scientific instrument maker; British; Male; 1704 - 1782)

Also known as

Martin, Benjamin


The Hadleys Quadrant and Visual Glasses, near Crane Court, in Fleet Street, London


Scientific lecturer, writer, optician and instrument maker.

After establishing a school in Chichester during his late twenties, Martin began to write books on natural philosophy aimed at a general audience. This was the start of a prolific writing career covering topics such as natural philosophy, theology, mathematics, language and geography.

By 1738, Martin had taken an interest in optics and produced a number of wood and cardboard microscopes. During this period he also started to present lectures and demonstrations on experimental philosophy to audiences in Reading, Bristol, Bath and London. He later spent a decade touring numerous towns and cities across southern England and the Midlands.

In 1756 he returned to London and began trading as an optician in response to his own need for reading glasses. He also produced scientific instruments and globes and became an established retailer and wholesaler in the instrument trade, while still continuing to produce many written works. Despite this wide-ranging business portfolio, Martin was declared bankrupt in January 1782 and died a few weeks later.

Trade card in Banks Collection (Banks,105.32) and photograph of an identical trade card in Heal Collection (Heal,105.72) advertise "All Sorts of Philosophical, Optical and Mathematical Instruments many of which are of New Invention made and Sold by Benjamin Martin at his shop near Crane Court in Fleet Street Viz. Planetariums, Globes of any Size, Airpumps, Barometers, Thermometers, Pocket Microscopes, Wilson's Microscopes, Solar Microscopes, &c. Reflecting and Refracting Telescopes, Reading Glasses, Opera Glasses, Spectacles, &c. Hadleys Quadrants, Cases of Instruments, Sectors, Sliding Rules, &c. Artificial Magnets; any of which may be sent safe to any part of England." Heal's annotations on mount as above except: "Benjamin Martin's sign in 1756 was 'The Hadleys Quadrant and Visual Glasses', but the shop was the one described above as near Crane Court in Fleet Street. See portrait in A.H.'s collection." On the verso are clippings from a catalogue advertising for sale various books or pamphlets by Benjamin Martin, including: "An Essay on Visual Glasses (vulgarly called spectacles). 8vo, one folding plate, wrapper. 15/- For the Author: London 1757."


John R. Milburn, 'Martin, Benjamin (bap. 1705, d.1782)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004.
Accessed 23 August 2010