Personal data
Robert Watson
Born 1730
Died March 31, 1781
Dr. Watson

Minister and historien. Robert Watson was born in St. Andrews, the son of Andrew Watson, an apothecary, brewer and sometime Provost of St. Andrews, and Jean Walker. He studied at St. Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh, before becoming licensed as a preacher.

Initially failing to be presented to one of the churches in St. Andrews, he was instead, in 1756, appointed Professor of Logic, Rhetoric and Metaphysics at the United College of St. Andrews (created in 1747 as a merger between the "old" colleges of St Leonard and St Salvator). He held this position from 1756 until 1778, when he was appointed Principal of the college, succeeding Thomas Tullideph (1770-1777). In that same year he was also presented to the parish of St Leonard.

He is best known for his magnum opus, the "History of Phillip II of Spain" (1777), which gained great contemporary popularity and was praised by Horace Walpole and John Stuart Mill.

Robert Watson was married (1757) to Margaret Shaw, with whom he had five children, all daughters.

Life with Boswell

Boswell and Johnson lodged at Dr Watson's at St Leonard's College in St Andrews on August 18-19, 1773, on the first leg of their tour of Scotland. They were introduced to Watson by William Nairne in the morning of the 19th, and Boswell, in his Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, described him as a "a well-informed man, of very amiable manners."

Later that day, Boswell and Johnson dined with Watson and several other professors at a local inn, and in the evening, they supped at Watson's together with a "Miss Sharp, great grandchild of Archbishop Sharp" and "Mr Craig, the ingenious architect of the New Town of Edinburgh."


Original copies of Watson's History of the Reign of Phillip II are usually available via AbeBooks.