WALLIS, John (1650-1717), of Soundness, Nettlebed, Oxon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1690 - 1695

Family and Education

b. 26 Dec. 1650, o. surv. s. of Rev. John Wallis, Savilian professor of geometry and keeper of the archs. Oxf., by Susanna, da. of John Glynde of Northiam, Suss.  educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1666, BA 1669; I. Temple, called 1676.  m. 1 Feb. 1682, Elizabeth (d. 1693), da. of John Harris of Soundness, and sis. and h. of Taverner Harris†, 1s. 2da.  suc. fa. 1703.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Wallingford 1690.2


Wallis’ family came originally from Northamptonshire. His grandfather had been vicar of Ashford in Kent and his father, described by Sir Christopher Wren* as ‘the most learned prodigy of the age’, was a distinguished mathematician, who also became an expert cryptographer. During the Civil War, Dr Wallis had at first sympathized with the Parliamentarians, serving as one of the secretaries to the assembly of divines at Westminster in 1644 and being appointed professor of geometry at Oxford in 1649 and keeper of the archives in 1654. Later, however, he was able to render some services to the Royalists. As a result he was confirmed in his offices after the Restoration and remained at Oxford for the rest of his life. It was in this city that Wallis himself spent his early years until he went to London to read for the bar at the Inner Temple. For a while he pursued a career in the law, but the death of his brother-in-law, Taverner Harris, in 1685 put him in possession of an estate at Soundness in Oxfordshire, whereupon he gave up the law and devoted himself to the management of his property.3

After the Revolution Dr Wallis’ services as a cryptographer were much employed by Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), the secretary of state, and Wallis began to help his father, becoming fairly proficient. On 12 Nov. 1689 Dr Wallis wrote to Nottingham asking for some preferment for his son and also pressed the claims of his son-in-law, John Blencowe*, another lawyer. Nothing was done at that time. Shortly afterwards Wallis was returned for Wallingford, a borough some eight miles from Nettlebed, which Taverner Harris had represented in 1681. He was classed by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Whig in a list of the new Parliament. In April 1691 he was listed by Robert Harl