Great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather of James Boswell, the biographer. Son of George Bruce (d. 1643) of Carnock, and Mary Preston, daughter of John Preston of Valleyfield. Married (1659) to Veronica van Sommelsdyck. They had at least 5 children, among them Mary Bruce, great-grandmother of Boswell, and Elizabeth Bruce, grandmother of Boswell.
Bruce was a royalist, who followed Charles II into exile. In Hamburg, he at some point worked with Dutch mathematician Hugens de Zulichem on improving the precision of pendulum clocks at sea. At the restoration, he returned to Scotland where he was named a Privy Councillor (until 1676) and Commissioner of Treasury. He also owned extensive coal-works and salt-works as well as stone and marble quarries.