William Stukeley

William Stukeley FRS FSA (7 November 1687 – 3 March 1765) was an English antiquarian, physician and Anglican clergyman. A significant influence on the later development of archaeology, he pioneered the scholarly investigation of the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire. He published over twenty books on archaeology and other subjects during his lifetime.

He told me, he was just in the same situation [i.e. in a garden], as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to him self. Why should it not go sideways or upwards, but constantly to the earths centre? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter.

  • Stonehenge: A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids, Preface. (1740).

Our predecessors, the Druids of Britain, tho’ left in the extremest west to the improvement of their own thoughts, yet advanc’d their inquiries, under all disadvantages, to such heights, as should make our moderns asham’d, to wink in the sunshine of learning and religion.

In 1721 he became a Freemason and in 1722 co-founded the Society of Roman Knights, an organisation devoted to the study of Roman Britain. In the early 1720s, Stukeley developed a particular interest in Stonehenge and Avebury, two prehistoric stone circles in Wiltshire. He visited them repeatedly, undertaking fieldwork to determine their dimensions.

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