(1667-1752) was a mathematician and historian who held strong but unorthodox Christian beliefs. He sought to reconcile his scientific and religious beliefs, and postulated that the Great Flood
was caused by a comet skimming past the Earth and deluging it with forty days and nights of water from its tail. The comet had also stretched and split the Earth’s crust, causing fountains of water to burst out of the core, adding to the flood.
The Lucasian Chair of Mathematics is required by charter not to be active in the Church, hence Whiston’s removal. His adherence to the Arian creed also set him at odds with his theologian colleagues. After being expelled from Cambridge, he went on to spend forty years working on the Longitude problem, and even managed to cause a major public panic in 1736 by predicting the world’s imminent destruction due to – what else? – collision with a comet.