Later Life and Burial

Later Life and Burial

Following his return from Ireland Harriot gained the patronage of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland  [1564-1632] and spent most of the remainder of his life at Syon House the home of the Earl near Kew in London.  It was here that Harriot built his famous laboratory and the observatory to hold the first telescope built in England.  In the case pursued against Sir Walter Raleigh in 1603 Harriot was “singled out in the judgment as being an atheist and an evil influence.”  A charge brought against the accused was one of atheism and stated “The conjurer that is master thereof” which Harriot took to be a reference to him.  Later during the Guy Fawkes episode in 1605 Northumberland was jailed for almost 17 years and Harriot was himself arrested but released at the end of 1604.  Harriot acted as the “Earl’s librarian and book selector or purchaser for the library of Syon House, as well as for the use of the Earl in the Tower.”   He helped Raleigh in the production of the “History of the world” and probably wrote some of the sections.  Present at the execution of Raleigh in 1618, he may have contributed to Raleigh’s final execution speech “Note or remembrance”
He contracted a cancer of the nose by 1613 and in 1615 a specialist noted hat Harriot was:

“A man somewhat melancholy…A cancerous ulcer in the left nostril eats up the septum of his nose and in proportion to its size holds the lips hard and turned upwards.  It has gradually crept well into the nose.  This evil the patient has suffered the last two years.”

This disease was undoubtedly caused by “smoking” and is the first such recorded death in England.  Harriot died on July 2nd 1621 when his nose and lip which “holds the lips hard and turned upwards…”  He was buried in St. Christopher’s Church which was burned down in the great fire of London in 1666 and when the Bank of England was built on site a plaque placed to his memory stated that he “cultivated all the sciences And excelled in all” “A most studious researcher after truth”
The inscription on his grave stated:

“Siste viater, leviter preme,
Jacet hic juxta quod mortale fuit
C.V.
Thomae Harrioti
Hic fuit doctissimus ille Harriotus
De Syon ad flumen Thamesin
Patria et educatione
Oxoniensis
Qui omnes scientias calluit
Qui in omnibus excelluit
Mathematicis, Philosophicis, Theologieis
Veritatatis indagator studicsissimus
Dei Trini unicus cultor piissimus
Sexagenarius aut eo circiter
Mortalitati valedixit, Non vitae
Anno Christi mdcxxi Julii 2.”


By his will his papers were left to his life long friend Tom Buckner and there is mention of his sister “whose son he left fifty pounds and a cousin.”  These would appear to have been his only living relatives.

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