Friday, June 26, 2020

2020 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 13: "Nearly Forgotten" - John Field

Week 13's theme of "nearly forgotten" brought to mind John Field, my 13th-great-grandfather (which is perfect for week 13). In the words of another of John's descendants,
"Among the English pioneers of science, whose claims to the remembrance of posterity have been unjustly overlooked, may be cited the man whose name is at the head of this article.

One would naturally suppose that some account would have been handed down to us of one who made known in England, for the first time, those discoveries of Copernicus which overthrew the Ptolemaic system and revolutionized the prevailing ideas of the notions of the heavenly bodies, and yet John Field, or Feld, as the name was spelt in his day, is not even mentioned in any English work on astronomy; or kindred subjects." 
- Osgood Field in The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 14, published 1898 
John Field was born about 1520 in East Ardsley, Yorkshire, England to Richard Feld and Elizabeth Petley. He married Jane Amyas about 1560, and they went on to have nine children. He studied astronomy and mathematics at Oxford University, and it is believed that he also studied on the Continent with John Dee, the famed astronomer (and sometime astrologer and alchemist) who was frequently at the courts of both Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. He might also have studied with Copernicus himself, but there is currently no confirmation of this.

While John Field's scientific beliefs may have been more progressive than those of his colleague John Dee, it did not save him from being questioned alongside Dee during the Marian persecutions, which occurred in the later half of the rein of Queen Mary I. It is, therefore, not surprising that there is an entry about John Field in the Book of Martyrs by John Foxe, who had to flee England altogether during the Marian persecutions. The entry reads:
"The 5th day [of June]: M. Secretary Bourne, the M. of the Roles Sir Frances Englefield, Sir Richard Read and Doctor Hughes, authorizing them or two or three of them at the least, to proceed to further examination of Benger, Cary, Dee, and Field, upon such points as they shall gather out of their former confessions, touching their lewd & vain practices of calculing or conjuring, presently sent unto them with the said letters. 
The 7th day [of June]: There was another letter to sir John Tregonwel, willing him to anyone in commission with the said L. North, and others above named, about the examination of the said parties & others, for conjuring & witchcraft. And the 29th of August, Cary and Dee were set at liberty upon bands for their good abearing until Christmas after."
Seeing as how nearly 300 people were burned as heritics during the Marian persecutions, it must have scared John to death to even be "examined" about his so-called "conjuring and witchcraft." Thankfully he did survive, and lived out the remainder of his life in East Ardsley with his family. 

When he passed away on May 3, 1587, he was laid to rest under the porch of St. Michael's Church in East Ardsley. A plaque marks the place where he is buried. 

Copernicus' work would have become known in England with or without John Field, but for John to even attempt to challenge the established scientific thought of his time was a risk, particularly during the rein of Mary I. Copernicus himself was threatened with imprisonment, and Galileo was placed under house arrest for championing Copernicus' work. John could very well have been imprisoned, or even burned at the stake, for daring to question the celestial powers that be. He deserves to be remembered as one of the great English scientists, and not to be relegated to obscurity.

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My descent from John Field is as follows:

John Field The Astronomer 1525-1587: 13th great-grandfather
John Amyas Field II 1568-1597: Son of John Field The Astronomer
Zachariah Stotwell Field 1596-1666: Son of John Amyas Field II
Zechariah II Stanley Field 1645-1674: Son of Zachariah Stotwell Field
Ebenezer Field 1671-1713: Son of Zechariah II Stanley Field
David Field 1697-1770: Son of Ebenezer Field
Ebenezer Field 1736-1776: Son of David Field
Rachel Field 1761-1840: Daughter of Ebenezer Field
Medad Walter 1790-1865: Son of Rachel Field
Jay Clark Walter 1831-1909: Son of Medad Walter
Amzi Walter 1861-1920: Son of Jay Clark Walter
Mary Ellen Walter 1888-1952: Daughter of Amzi Walter
Clara May Schofield 1906-1989: Daughter of Mary Ellen Walter
Arthur Ray "Jack" Quinn 1939-1986: Son of Clara May Schofield
Lora Marlene Quinn 1961-: Daughter of Arthur Ray "Jack" Quinn
Allison Quinn Kessinger: You are the daughter of Lora Marlene Quinn

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