At the age of 72, Abraham De Moivre finally got his chance at an academic position in England. Following the death of Nicholas Saunderson on April 19, 1739, the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge became vacant. Prior to becoming Master of the Mint, Newton had held the professorship from 1669 to 1702. In order to be eligible for the position, De Moivre was given by royal warrant an honorary degree of Master of Arts from Cambridge and was made a member of Trinity College.1 The election was described more than twenty years later by the Reverend William Cole, who was a student at Cambridge in 1739:
W. W. Rouse Ball used this anecdote, in part, for his description of the election in A History of the Study of Mathematics at Cambridge.3 Rouse Ball ignored that Cole had erred in Colson’s education and in saying it was the Plumian Professorship. Colson received a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge in 1728.4 Rouse Ball reduced the physical description of De Moivre to “very old and almost in his dotage.” He added that Robert Smith, Master of Trinity College, supported Colson. What both Ball and
Cole left out was that there was a third candidate. He was the Reverend Dr. Roger Long, an astronomer and master of Pembroke College, Cambridge.5 At the time of the election, both Colson and Long were 59 years old.