Thomas Godfrey (inventor)

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Thomas Godfrey
Founding Member, American Philosophical Society
Personal details
BornDecember 1704
DiedDecember 1749

Thomas Godfrey (December 1704 – December 1749) was an optician and inventor in the American colonies, who around 1730 invented the octant. At approximately the same time an Englishman, John Hadley, also invented the octant independently.

Godfrey was born on his family's farm in Bristol Township, near Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Franklin describes Godfrey at length in his Autobiography, referring to him as a "Great Mathematician" who nevertheless was "not a pleasing Companion", demanding in conversations a "universal Precision in every thing said."[1] Godfrey was a founding member, with Franklin, of the American Philosophical Society.[2]

Godfrey's son, also Thomas Godfrey, died at only 26, but had already published several popular works, including The Prince of Parthia, a play that remains well known to this day.


  1. ^ Franklin, Benjamin (1996). The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Mineola: Dover. ISBN 978-0-486-29073-7.
  2. ^ Bell, Jr., Whitfield (1997). Patriot-improvers: Biographical Sketches of Members of the American Philosophical Society. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. pp. Vol. I, pp. 62–67.

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