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John Harris

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Disambiguation: for the music journalist please see John Harris (critic), and for the Cornish writer, John Harris (poet)

John Harris (c. 1666 - September 7, 1719), was an English writer. He is best known as the editor of the Lexicon technicum, or Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences (1704), which ranks as the earliest of the long line of English encyclopaedias, and as the compiler of the Collection of Voyages and Travels which passes under his name.

He was born about 1666, probably in Shropshire, and was a scholar of Trinity College, Oxford, from 1684 to 1688. He was presented to the vicarage of Icklesham in Sussex, and subsequently to the rectory of St Thomas, Winchelsea. In 1698 he was entrusted with the delivery of the seventh series of the Boyle Lectures, "Atheistical Objections against the Being of God and His Attributes fairly considered and fully refuted."

Between 1702 and 1704 he delivered at the Marine Coffee House in Birchin Lane the mathematical lectures founded by Sir Charles Cox, and advertised himself as a mathematical tutor at Amen Corner. The friendship of Sir William Cowper, afterwards lord chancellor, secured for him the office of private chaplain, a prebend in Rochester cathedral (1708), and the rectory of the united parishes of St Mildred, Bread Street and St Margaret Moses, in addition to other preferments.

He showed himself an ardent supporter of the government, and engaged in a bitter quarrel with the Rev. Charles Humphreys, who afterwards was chaplain to Dr Sacheverel. Harris was one of the early members of the Royal Society, and for a time acted as vice-president. At his death, he was busy completing an elaborate History of Kent. He is said to have died in poverty brought on by his own bad management of his affairs.

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