Charles Stanhope, third Earl Stanhope, scientist, radical and politician, was born in London on 3rd August 1753. He began life living on the Stanhope estate at Chevening, set in Kent on the south face of the North Downs. However, after the death of his elder brother Philip, he spent a large amount of his early life in Geneva under the management of Dr Tronchin.
Young Stanhope showed signs of interest in science and inventing, interests which would become his career later on in life. Lady Mary Coke remarked of his early achievements:
“He has invented, I was told, a mathematical instrument which I was assured is better for the purpose it is intended than any of the kind; yet he is but seventeen years of age.” (Letter from Lady Mary Coke to Lady Chatham, cited in Aubrey Newman - The Stanhopes of Chevening: A Family Biography. Macmillan and Co, 1969, London. P. 130.)
Stanhope's mathematical achievements were strongly encouraged by his family. His education was conducted by his father, who taught him Greek and a Genevese mathematician, Georges Le Sage. Stanhope was quick to progress with education and during this time he learnt the basics of the mathematical knowledge that would make him a significant inventor later in life.