Search the Collection
Sir William Petty (1623-1687), Political economist
Sitter in 8 portraits
A physician, natural scientist, inventor and political economist, Petty was a founding fellow of the Royal Society. He overcame a humble origin to rise rapidly following the Parliamentary victory in the civil war. Petty was elected Professor of Anatomy at Oxford in 1651, and made a fortune following Cromwell's conquest of Ireland by surveying the land to be confiscated and distributed amongst the victors. He retained his positions at the Restoration and impressed Charles II with his design for a double-keeled ship. He is principally remembered for carrying out the first serious attempt at a scientific and mathematical study of social statistics in Political Arithmetic (1690).