Isaac Milner (1750-1820) was Queens’ President from 1788 to 1820, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics and Dean of Carlisle. He began working life as an apprentice weaver in Leeds, but through his brother’s patronage and his own formidable intellect matriculated at Queens’, and in quick succession was made Fellow in Mathematics, ordained to St Botoph’s Church and given a Fellowship of the Royal Society. His evangelical faith fuelled his enthusiasm for Newtonian classical mechanics, and he was appointed the inaugural Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy. Strengths in his collection of around 3,000 pamphlets and books include Anglicanism and Methodism in the 18th and early 19th centuries, key works of the Protestant Reformation, 18th-century European mathematics, and the abolition of slavery (Milner was an abolitionist, and a close friend of William Wilberforce). Milner was also a chemist, and conducted experiments in the President’s Lodge; known as a ‘great dabbler in air-pumps’, he is believed to be the original owner of the air pump now residing in the Old Library. Milner, like Hughes, is now buried in the crypt directly below what is now the War Memorial Library.
Milner's collection was the subject of an Old Library exhibition, now available online:
Isaac Milner and the Enlightenment of late Georgian Queens’ (February–April 2015)