Thomas Burnet (1635? - 1715), theologian and writer on cosmogony, was born at Croft near Darlington, and educated at Cambridge, and became Master of Charterhouse and Clerk of the Closet to William III. His literary fame rests on his Telluris Theoria Sacra, or Sacred Theory of the Earth, published about 1692, first in Latin and afterwards in English, a work which, in absence of all scientific knowledge of the earth's structure, was necessarily a mere speculative cosmogony. It is written, however, with much eloquence. In this book he suggested that the earth was a perfect hollow sphere with most of the water inside until Noah's Flood, at which time mountains and oceans appeared.
Some of the views expressed in another work, Archaeolgiae Philosophicae, were, however, so unacceptable to contemporary theologians that he had to resign his post at Court. In this he considered whether The Fall of Man was a symbolic event rather than literal history.
Burnet's work had an influence on Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He is quoted at the beginning of the final (1834) revision of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
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This article incorporates public domain text from: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J.M. Dent & sons; New York, E.P. Dutton.
Categories: A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature | 1635 births | 1715 deaths