Philip Skippon (1641-91)


Mentions in Memoirs: Folio 221, Folio 226

Mentions in Pocketbook: Money Matters

Skippon was the son of the Cromwellian major general, and a pupil of John Ray’s at Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as a protégé of John Wilkins, who was master of Trinity from 1659–1660. Skippon travelled with Ray in 1661, 1662, and on the Continent in 1663–1666, where he met Lister in Montpellier.

Skippon was admitted to the Royal Society in 1667, although he did little in natural history after his marriage to Amy Brewster and settlement in Suffolk. He did however have a lively political career. In his retirement, he also evinced an inquisitive intellect.  A few of his observations appeared in the Royal Society after his death.

Philip Skippon travelled with John Ray, his former tutor at Cambridge, on the Continent from 1663 to 1666. Like Ray, Skippon published his memoirs of his journey. (Skippon’s work was published by A. and J. Churchill, A collection of voyages and travels (London, 1732), vol. 6, pp. 359–736.) Skippon’s work gives us great insights into the itinerary of Lister’s return journey from Paris to Canterbury, as well as to the activities of the expatriate group of virtuosi in Montpellier.

From August 1665 until February 1666, Ray and Skippon visited Montpellier where they met Lister. Skippon was later responsible for helping Lister publish his first paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, passing along Lister’s anonymous submission to Henry Oldenburg in a letter of 16 February 1668/9. Skippon wrote:


The enclosed coming to my hands but yesternight and my occasions urging me out of Towne this morning i could not my selfe wait upon you with it; the account was sent to Mr. Wray from Cambridge by an ingenious person who for the present desires to have his name concealed; i am desired to deliver it to you and if you thinke fitt, it may be communicated to the Society; the Italian snails spoken of in the paper are found in great Numbers upon the chalky hills nigh Dorking, which i once ordered to bee drest and i found them as well tasted as those in italy; if there be any further occasion or using Mr Wray or my selfe, your intimates by letter will meete with either of us if you please to leave them with Mr Horsnell in Cursitors Ally; i beg pardon for my hast and am Sr.

Your most humble Servant

Ph. Skippon

EL/S1/29, Royal Society Library, London

Lister’s paper submitted by Skippon was one of the first accounts of chirality or “handedness” in snails.  Lister’s paper also contained his discovery of ballooning spiders for which he is still credited by scientists today.  Below is a You Tube video, courtesy of the Open University, featuring Professor Bob Suter’s (Vassar) recent work upon ballooning spiders:

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