- Also known as
primary name: Allen, Elias
- individual; goldsmith/metalworker; scientific instrument maker; British; Male
- Life dates
- Prolific mathematical instrument maker. Allen was born near Tonbridge, Kent and apprenticed from 1602 until the latter’s death in 1611 to London instrument maker Charles Whitwell (q.v) of the Grocer's Company. Having already established a professional reputation, with a workshop in Blackhorse Alley near Fleet Street, he moved to a workshop beside St Clement Danes Church, the Strand, probably Whitwell’s former premises. Working mainly in brass but occasionally in silver, he created a thriving business and his workshop became a centre for discussions and correspondences. He was patronized by various aristocrats, made instruments for James I and Charles I, and developed a market among the gentry, becoming the first English instrument maker to make his living from the profession. In 1633, soon after its foundation, he entered the Clockmakers' Company, becoming its Master in1637/38, perhaps the peak of his career. His portrait (now known only through an engraving) was painted c.1640 by the Dutch artist Hendrik van der Borcht.
Allen was highly respected by London's ablest mathematicians, in particular Edmund Gunter and William Oughtred, who provided him with many of his most popular designs. A wealth of surviving instruments attest to his skill in dividing scales and his artistry as an engraver.
Between 1612 and 1649 he took 14 apprentices, training them to the same high standards. Several, including Ralph Greatorex, Robert Davenport, John Prujean, and John Allen, who later trained Walter Hayes, Allen’s true successor, subsequently became eminent in the field themselves.
Allen's trade declined during the Civil War, although he worked until his death in 1653. Although his wife from c.1606, Elizabeth, had predeceased him, he was survived by a daughter, also Elizabeth, and was buried in St Clement Danes.
- H. K. Higton, ‘Allen, Elias (c.1588–1653)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
Sundials at Greenwich 2002, p. 437
Turner 2000, p.31; instruments 81-88,100-102; pl.14.