James Gregory

Name
James Gregory
First name
James
Last name
Gregory
Born 1753
Place of birth
in Aberdeen

Died April 02, 1821
Place of death
in Edinburgh
Gender
0
Biography

Scottish physician and classicist. Gregory was the son of the esteemed physician Dr John Gregory (1724-1773) and his wife Elizabeth Forbes (d. 1761). He was married two times, firstly to Mary Ross (d. 1784) and secondly (in 1796) to Isabella Macleod (1772-1847), with whom he had eleven children. 

He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School, before going on to study at the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Oxford and Leyden. In 1776 he was appointed to the chair formerly held by his father at Edinburgh University, and he also began teaching clinical medicine at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. In 1790 he succeeded Dr William Cullen as Head of the Edinburgh University School of Medicine. His reputation was so great, that in 1799 he was appointed First Physician to the King in Scotland to King George III. This commission was renewed by King George IV in 1820.

Gregory was president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1798 to 1801, but his publishing certain private proceedings of the college led to the suspension of his fellowship on May 13, 1809.

In 1820, Gregory had a riding accident, sustaining fractured ribs and hydrothorax. He never fully recovered, dying the next year. He lies buried, together with his wife and most of his children, next to the philosopher Adam Smith in Edinburgh's Canongate Kirkyard. For several decades after his death, he was known as the creator of "Gregory's Powder", an antacid, stomachic and cathartic which was composed of powdered rhubarb, ginger and magnesium oxide. The mixture was frequently used for stomach complaints until World War I. 

Life with Boswell

On August 17, 1773, Gregory had dinner at Boswell's in Edinburgh, during Dr Johnson's stay there, shortly before Johnson and Boswell set out on their tour of Scotland. Also present were Sir Alexander Dick, Sir David Dalrymple, the advocate John Maclaurin and Boswell's uncle, John Boswell.

John Maclaurin - Lord Dreghorn

Name
John Maclaurin
First name
John
Last name
Maclaurin
Born December 15, 1734
Died December 24, 1796
Gender
0
Alias
Lord Dreghorn
Biography

John Maclaurin was a Scottish advocate, judge and author. He was born in 1734, one of seven children of the noted mathematician Colin Maclaurin (1698-1746)1 and his wife Anne Stewart.2 

Maclaurin studied law at Edinburgh University, qualifying as an advocate in 1756. In 1762 he married Esther Cunningham (d. 1780). In 1781 he was elected Chief of the Clan McLaren, and in 1788 he was created a Senator of the College of Justice (a judge) as Lord Dreghorn, after his family home.

  • 1. Colin Maclaurin made important contributions to geometry and algebra, and the Euler-Maclaurin formula is named after him, as is The Maclaurin Society (MacSoc), the Mathematics and Statistics Society at Glasgow University.
  • 2. Anne Stewart was a daughter of Walter Stewart, who was briefly (1720-21) Solicitor-General for Scotland.
Life with Boswell

Maclaurin was a professional colleague of Boswell's and just a few years older, although he completed his studies faster and qualified as an advocate at the young age of 21 (to compare, Boswell was 26 when he was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1767).

Boswell had Maclaurin, Alexander Dick, David Dalrymple, Dr Robert Gregory and his uncle, John Boswell, for dinner in Edinburgh on August 17, 1773, together with Dr Johnson, who was staying with Boswell before they set out on their tour of Scotland. Of this dinner, Boswell wrote, in Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, that "Mr Maclaurin’s learning and talents enabled him to do his part very well in Dr Johnson’s company. He produced two epitaphs upon his father, the celebrated mathematician. One was in English, of which Dr Johnson did not change one word. In the other, which was in Latin, he made several alterations."1.

Thomas Blacklock - the Blind Poet

Name
Thomas Blacklock
First name
Thomas
Last name
Blacklock
Born November 10, 1721
Place of birth
in Annan, Scotland

Died July 07, 1791
Place of death
in Edinburgh
Gender
0
Alias
Dr. Blacklock
Biography

Blacklock was a Scottish poet and scholar. His father was a bricklayer, and his mother was the daughter of Mr Richard Rae, a cattle dealer. 

He lost his sight as a result of smallpox when he was just six months old. At the age of 12, he began writing poetry, and due to the influence of some of his friends, he soon gained some reputation in Scotland and abroad as a blind poet with some promise.

By 1759 he had completed his theological studies, and he was licensed as a preacher in Dumfries, where he acquired a considerable reputation as a pulpit orator. He was appointed minister of Kirkcudbright, but was objected to by the parishioners on account of his blindness, and gave up the presentation on receiving an annuity. He later removed to Edinburgh, where he became a tutor, and in 1767 he was made a D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) from Marischal College in Aberdeen.

Blacklock's poems are mostly forgotten today, and his primary claim to fame is saving the life of poet Robert Burns by persuading him not to go to the West Indies, but to stay and publish his poems instead. The ship that Burns was supposed to travel with sank on its subsequent voyage with all lives lost. According to Corey Andrews in The Genius of Scotland: The Cultural Production of Robert Burns, 1785-1834, "[Burns wrote, in an autobiographical letter to John Moore,] that 'a letter from Dr. Blacklock overthrew all my schemes by rousing by poetic ambition.' He confesses that 'the Doctor belonged to a set a Critics for whose applause I had not even dared to hope'."

According to Chambers' Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen (1872), "[i]t has been said of Dr Blacklock that 'he never lost a friend, nor made a foe;' and perhaps no literary man ever passed through life so perfectly free from envious feeling, and so entirely respected and beloved. His conversation was lively and entertaining; his wit was acknowledged, but it had no tinge of malice; his temper was gentle, his feelings warm—intense; his whole character was one to which may be applied the epithet amiable, without any qualification."

Life with Boswell

Blacklock came to visit Boswell for breakfast on August 17, 1773, during Samuel Johnson's stay in Edinburgh, shortly before Johnson and Boswell set out on their tour of Scotland. According to Boswell, in Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, Sir William Forbes "brought with him Dr Blacklock, whom he introduced to Dr Johnson, who received him with a most humane complacency: “Dear Dr Blacklock, I am glad to see you!” Blacklock seemed to be much surprised when Dr Johnson said it was easier to him to write poetry than to compose his Dictionary. [...] Dr Blacklock spoke of scepticism in morals and religion with apparent uneasiness, as if he wished for more certainty."

James Burnett - Lord Monboddo

Name
James Burnett
First name
James
Last name
Burnett
Born 1714
Place of birth
at Monboddo House, Kincardineshire

Died May 26, 1799
Gender
0
Biography

Scottish judge, philosopher and noted eccentric. Burnett was the son of James Burnett of Monboddo and Elizabeth Forbes. He married Elizabeth Farquharson, with whom he had two daughters and a  son.

Burnett was educated at Marischal College in Aberdeen, and at Edinburgh University before going to Groningen (in the present-day Netherlands) to study for three years. After his return to Scotland, he passed his civil law examination in February 1737 and shortly after was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates.

In 1767 he succeeded Andrew Fletcher, Lord Milton, as a Lord of Session (judge), assuming the title Lord Monboddo. 

Burnett was also a distinguished linguist, and his six-volume The Origin and Progress of Language (1773-1792) is considered the first major work in modern, comparative historical linguistics. He is even considered an early evolutionary theorist, although his theories about ouran-outangs (then used to refer to any kind of monkey) being a pre-cursor for man was widely and famously ridiculed.

Life with Boswell

 

Although not present himself, Monboddo and his theories became the subject of conversation twice on August 16, 1773, during Dr Johnson's stay in Edinburgh, before Johnson and Boswell set out on their tour of Scotland. During dinner, Sir Adolphus Oughton used Monboddo's theories about ouran-outangs to avert a potential argument with Dr Johnson "[changing] the discourse, [growing] playful, laughed at Lord Monboddo's notion of men having tails, and called him a Judge, a posteriori, which amused Dr Johnson; and thus hostilities were prevented."1

In the evening, Boswell hosted a supper for Johnson in the company of Dr William Cullen, Robert Cullen, the philosopher Adam Ferguson and advocate Andrew Crosbie. Monboddo's notion that ouran-outangs might be taught to speak came up once more, and Crosbie stated, that Monboddo "believed the existence of every thing possible; in short, that all which is in posse might be found in esse". To this, Johnson replied that "But, sir, it is as possible that the Ouran-Outang does not speak, as that he speaks. However, I shall not contest the point. I should have thought it not possible to find a Monboddo; yet HE exists."

Literature

First and second editions of Burnett's Of the Origin and Progress of Language are exceedingly rare, but sometimes available via AbeBooks, selling for no less than $400 per volume. Try to do an advanced search using dates of publication between 1770 and 1795 to avoid poor quality print-on-demands.

Robert Cullen - Advocate and Judge

Name
Robert Cullen
First name
Robert
Last name
Cullen
Born September 22, 1742
Place of birth
in Edinburgh

Died November 28, 1810
Gender
0
Biography

Robert Cullen was the son of the noted Edinburgh physician, chemist and professor, William Cullen. He married Mary Russell (d.1818) but had no children.1

Cullen was educated at Edinburgh University and admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1764. He later became a judge, serving as one of the senators of the College of Justice (1796-9) and as a Lord of Justiciary (1799-1810).

In 1783, he co-founded, with his father and other prominent Edinburgh citizens, the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

  • 1. In 1813, Cullen's widow, Mary, married J. J. Alexander, Esq. of St. Lucia, and died on that island in 1818.
Life with Boswell

Cullen was one of Boswell's professional colleagues. On August 16, 1773, Cullen came to meet and dine with Dr Johnson at Boswell's Edinburgh home together with the Duchess of Douglas, Sir Adolphus Oughton, Lord Chief Baron Ord, Sir William Forbes and Principal William Robertson.

Cullen stayed for supper, and they were joined by his father, the noted physician William Cullen, the philosopher Adam Fergusson and Boswell's close associate and fellow advocate Andrew Crosbie

James Robertson - Orientalist

Name
James Robertson
First name
James
Last name
Robertson
Born 1714
Place of birth
in Cromarty

Died November 26, 1795
Place of death
in Leith
Gender
0
Biography

Robertson studied in Aberdeen and at Leyden University, from which he graduated in 1749. He continued on to Oxford University, where he studied Hebrew under Thomas Hunt (1696-1774), the Laudian Professor of Arabic. 

In 1751, he became Professor of Hebrew at Edinburgh University, supported by a written testimonial from his old Professor at Leyden, the philologist Albert Schultens, who had died the year before. He stayed on as Professor until 1792, a few years before his death. From 1763 until 1785 he was even the University Librarian.

He was a much-respected scholar in his own time, and he wrote such works as Grammatica linguae Hebraeae (1758), The resemblance of Jesus to Moses considered (1765), and Clavis Pentateuchi (1770)

 

Life with Boswell

Boswell took Dr Johnson to see the library at Edinburgh University on August 16, 1773, and here they met Robertson. According to Boswell, in Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, Johnson was "much pleased with the library, and with the conversation of Dr James Robertson, Professor of Oriental Languages, the Librarian."

Adam Ferguson - Philosopher and Historian

Name
Adam Ferguson
First name
Adam
Last name
Ferguson
Born July 01, 1723
Place of birth
in Logierait, Perthshire, Scotland

Died February 22, 1816
Place of death
in St. Andrews, Scotland
Gender
0
Biography

Ferguson was the son of Rev. Adam Ferguson and his wife Mary Gordon. In 1767 Ferguson married Katharine Burnett (d. 1795) but had no children.

He received his education at Perth Grammar School, before going on to the universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews, from which he took his M.A. in 1742. In 1745 he became regimental chaplain to the 43rd Highland Regiment of Foot1, and he continued to be attached to the regiment until 1754 when he decided to leave the clergy to pursue more literary interests.

In 1757 he briefly succeeded David Hume as Keeper of the Advocates' Library, but soon after relinquished his office, when he became a tutor in the family of the Earl of Bute. In 1759 Ferguson was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh before, in 1764, becoming Professor of Pneumatics and Moral Philosophy instead.

Ferguson's main claim to fame is arguably his Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767), which received critical acclaim and which was widely read even three decades after its initial publication. 

He resigned his position as Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1785, but he continued with his literary endeavours, and in 1792 appeared, in two volumes, his Principles of Moral and Political Science.

In 1793, at the respectable old age of 70, Ferguson visited Germany and Italy, residing for a short time at Rome, and was elected an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin.

  • 1. The 43rd Regiment was renumbered in 1751, becoming the 42nd Highland Regiment of Foot. It is also known as The Black Watch.
Life with Boswell

Boswell took Dr Johnson to visit Edinburgh College (University) on August 16, 1773, in the company of its principal, William Robertson, and others. Here they met Adam Ferguson, "whose Essay on the History of Civil Society gives him a respectable place in the ranks of literature."1 That same evening, Ferguson supped with Boswell and Johnson at Boswell's Edinburgh home, together with Dr William Cullen, his son Robert Cullen, and Boswell's close associate Andrew Crosbie.

Alexander Brown - Keeper of the Advocates Library

Name
Alexander Brown
First name
Alexander
Last name
Brown

Died 1801
Gender
0
Biography

Brown was the longtime Keeper of the Advocates Library in Edinburgh (1766-1794), which, in the 18th century, was the de facto national library of Scotland.

Brown was also an able archer, who, on May 26, 1781, during a practice session  "won eight successive ends, and nine successive shots in these eight ends, against the whole other of these shooters—an instance similar not known or remembered by any archer present to have happened before. This, it may be explained, occurred while shooting at rovers, and not in the butts, which, of course, makes the fact all the more wonderful. The gentleman who performed it was the Librarian to the Faculty of Advocates, and was at one time employed in collecting materials for a History of Archery and the Royal Company, but did not proceed very far with it"  1

  • 1. Paul, James Balfour. (1875) The History of the Royal Company of Arches. pp. 97-98
Life with Boswell

Boswell took Dr Johnson to see the Advocates Library on August 16, 1773, and they had a discussion with Brown and James Ker, the Keeper of Records, which is recounted in Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides.

James Adolphus Oughton

Name
James Adolphus Dickenson Oughton
First name
James Adolphus
Last name
Oughton
Born 1719
Place of birth
in London

Died April 14, 1780
Place of death
in Bath
Gender
0
Biography

British soldier. Oughton was the illegitimate son of Colonel Augustus Oughton (d. 1736) and Frances Dickenson. He married the widow Mary Dalrymple.

Oughton was educated at Coventry, Charterhouse School and Trinity College, Dublin, before entering the army in 1741. At the Battle of Culloden in 1746, he commanded a company of the 37th Foot Regiment. Some years later, at the famous Battle of Minden (1759), he commanded the entire regiment.

Around 1768, he was appointed Deputy Commander-in-Chief of North Britain (Scotland), and in 1778 he was elevated to the senior position as Commander-in-Chief of North Britain, succeeding John Campbell, the Marquess of Lorne. Oughton was for many years Secretary of the Cumberland Society, which was founded to commemorate the victory over Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746, and we was 

 

 

Life with Boswell

Oughton attended a dinner at Boswell's in Edinburgh on August 16, 1773, during Dr Johnson's visit to that city just before the beginning of his and Boswell's tour of Scotland. Also present were the Duchess of Douglas, Lord Chief Baron Ord, Sir William Forbes, William Robertson and Mr Cullen, advocate. Boswell wrote of Oughton that he was:

not only an excellent officer but one of the most universal scholars I ever knew, had learned the Erse language, and expressed his belief in the authenticity of Ossian’s poetry. Dr Johnson took the opposite side of that perplexed question, and I was afraid the dispute would have run high between them. But Sir Adolphus, who had a very sweet temper, changed the discourse, grew playful, laughed at Lord Monboddo’s notion of men having tails, and called him ‘a Judge a posteriori’, which amused Dr Johnson, and thus hostilities were prevented.1